Bone fracture location could strongly affect long-term health in older people

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It is well-known that a hip fracture can have devastating health implications for older individuals, but less is known about the effects of other fractures in the body.

In a recent study at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, researchers found that in older people, the location of a broken bone can have big impacts on long-term health outcomes.

They found older people with broken bones closer to the center of the body, known as proximal fractures (such as upper arm, upper leg, pelvis, and ribs) face a higher risk of being admitted to the hospital for major medical conditions and of dying prematurely following their fracture.

The study is published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society. The lead author is Jacqueline R. Center, Ph.D.

The researchers used the Danish National Database to study 300,000 patients 50 years or older with a low-trauma fracture (due to falls from a standing height).

They examined differences in the reasons for subsequent hospital admission and death patterns between patients with proximal fractures compared with those fractures further away from the center of the body, known as distal bones (such as the wrist, ankle, hand or foot), where there is no increased risk of death.

They matched people with fractures to people without fractures who had similar age and other medical diagnoses.

The team found that people with broken bones at proximal sites had a 1.5- to 4-fold greater risk of death over the next two years, whether they were admitted to the hospital after their fracture or not.

They were also more likely to have an admission to the hospital for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, and lung disease.

By contrast, those people who had a distal fracture had a similar or lower risk of death, as well as similar hospital admission patterns as people with no fractures.

This research provides important insights as to why people who have a proximal fracture die prematurely.

Further studies are needed to find specific ways of preventing these premature deaths.

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