Bone mineral density predicts non-spine fractures in very elderly women

M. C. Nevitt, O. Johnell, D. M. Black, K. Ensrud, H. K. Genant, S. R. Cummings, S. R. Cummings

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To determine the ability of bone density to predict fractures in very elderly women, we examined the association of bone density with non-spine, hip, wrist and humerus fractures in 8699 Caucasian women aged 65-79 years and 1005 women aged 80 years and older who were participants in the prospective Study of Osteoporotic Fractures. Follow-up averaged 4.9 (±1.0) years after baseline measurement of appendicular bone density (single-photon absorptiometry; Osteon-Osteo Analyzer) and 2.9 (±0.6) years after measurement of hip and anteroposterior lumbar spine bone density (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry; Hologic QDR 1000) at a later examination. In general, measurements of bone density in the oldest women retained their predictive value for fractures. Among women aged 80 and over a 1 standard deviation decrease in bone density of the distal radius was associated with an increased risk of non-spine (relative risk: 1.6; 95% confidence interval: 1.3, 1.8), wrist (1.7; 1.2, 2.4) and humerus fracture (2.9; 1.8, 4.7), while a 1 standard deviation decrease in femoral neck bone density was associated with an increased risk of non-spine (1.9; 1.6, 2.4), humerus (2.4; 1.2, 4.7) and hip fracture (2.1; 1.4; 3.2). However, only trochanteric but not femoral neck fractures were associated with low bone density in these oldest women. The excess risk of fracture in women with below-median bone density was greater in those aged 80 years and over compared with the younger women: 38.4 v 20.4 per 1000 woman-years for non-spine fracture and 12.2 v 3.2 per 1000 woman-years for hip fracture. Densitometry remains an effective tool for identifying women who have an increased risk of fracture, even after age 80, and prevention of bone loss may be an effective approach to fracture prevention in very elderly women. Because the excess risk of fracture associated with low bone mass is highest in the very elderly, they may reap the greatest short-term benefit from efforts to prevent bone loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-331
Number of pages7
JournalOsteoporosis International
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1994


  • Bone densitometry
  • Fractures
  • Very elderly women


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