Predicting the risk of hip fractures

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
November 13, 2007 9:00:00 PM PST
It's more than just painful -- a broken hip can lead to more serious problems, even death. Now, there is a new tool to figure out who is at risk for hip fractures.

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

One thing that always helps a patient do the things necessary to keep him or her on a healthful track is awareness about the likelihood of problems. The information from a study of more than 100,000 women is giving other women awareness about the risk of fracturing a hip.

For older women, a hip fracture can mean continuing ill health. It can set off a cascade of events that undermine quality of life and can even hasten death.

Now, a report in the Journal of the American Medical association has identified 11 factors that can give information on the probability of a woman having a hip fracture within the next five years.

"Clearly, the major factor is age," Dr. John Robbins said. "And that the older you get, the more likely you are to have a fracture."

But there are many more factors to consider. One of them is race.

Caucasian women are at greater risk, according to the study. As are thinner women and taller women.

Women who smoke also have an added risk factor. So do women who are not physically active, who have diabetes and who take steroids.

Reporting fair or poor health is also a risk factor, along with having had a fracture after age 55. Having a parent who had a hip fracture is another.

When all the factors are entered, the program estimates risk.

Ginger Gregory had good news.

Her results projected her probability of having a hip fracture in the next five years at less than a half of 1 percent.

More testing is needed, but this algorithm might give women and doctors new options for taking preventive medications.

"If your risk factor is 5 percent in the next five years, I would think it's probably worth taking them," Dr. Robbins said. "If it's 1/2 of 1 percent, I would argue against it. Where you make that cut point in between is a difficult decision that's faced by women, physicians and society."

Dr. Robbins says he wants to further test the set of risk factors to make sure they accurately predict hip fracture risk, but right now, this is a handy way for women and doctors to estimate risk and to take action that may prevent one cause of death.