Why do geriatric outpatients have so many moderate and severe vertebral fractures? Exploring prevalence and risk factors

Hanna C. van der Jagt-Willems*, Marike van Hengel, Marijn Vis, Barbara C. van Munster, Jos P. C. M. van Campen, Linda R. Tulner, Willem F. Lems

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: to determine the prevalence of vertebral fractures and their risk factors in geriatric patients.

Design: prospective cohort study.

Setting: teaching hospital in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Subjects: three hundred and three geriatric patients, who had their first visit at a diagnostic day hospital between April and August 2007.

Measurements: lateral X-rays of the lumbar spine and chest were performed; vertebral fractures were scored according to the semi-quantitative method of Genant by trained observers and compared with the official report of radiologists. Co-morbidity, reported falls, mobility and cognitive function were scored.

Results: vertebral fractures were observed in 51% (156/303) of geriatric patients. Sixty-nine per cent (107/156) of these fractures were moderate to severe. In 21% (33/156) of the patients with a fracture, vertebral fractures were diagnosed on the lumbar spine X-ray alone. Patients with vertebral fractures had more previous non-vertebral fractures (odds ratio: 2.40 95% CI: 1.40-4.10), had lower serum albumin levels (OR: 0.92 95% CI: 0.87-0.97) and more current prednisone use (OR: 8.94 95% CI: 1.12-71.45). Co-morbidity and cognitive decline were not identified as risk factors. Radiologists reported vertebral fractures in 53% (82/156) of the cases.

Conclusion: this study showed a very high prevalence of vertebral fractures in geriatric patients; particularly the high prevalence of moderate and severe fractures is remarkable. Because of this high prevalence, the routinely performed lateral X-ray of the chest should be used to look for vertebral fractures. An additional X-ray of the lumbar spine might be useful in patients without vertebral fractures on the chest X-ray.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-206
Number of pages7
JournalAge and Ageing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2012
Externally publishedYes


  • vertebral fractures
  • osteoporosis
  • risk factors
  • lumbar spine X-ray
  • prevalence
  • elderly
  • MEN
  • HIP
  • GO

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