The older people get, the higher their risk of hip fractures. And a hip fracture can be ruinous — it’s been estimated that one out of five people who suffer a hip fracture will die within a year and another 40 percent will lose their indepence. So it’s of note that a group of researchers in the United Kingdom has published in the medical journal Lancet a report that indicates screening for osteoporosis (weak or brittle bones) might prevent as many as one-quarter of hip fractures.
The researchers conducted a randomized trial of more than 12,000 women aged 70–85 who were recruited from 100 general practitioner practices across the United Kingdom (hip fractures are much more common in women). They used what’s known as the Fracture Risk Assessment Tool, or FRAX, which was developed at the University of Sheffield and uses algorithms to give a 10-year probability of fracture. Half of the women were screened for osteoporosis and the rest received routine care. Treatment was recommended for one in seven women in the screened group who were considered at elevated risk of hip fracture, and within six months over three-quarters of the high-risk women were taking osteoporosis medications.
The results of the trial showed that although screening did not reduce the incidence of all fractures, it did reduce the number of hip fractures by about 25 percent. According to Eugene McCloskey, MD, of the University of Sheffield, one of the study authors, “Low-cost screening with FRAX among the older population could result in effective, targeted intervention to reduce the human and socioeconomic burden of hip fractures.”