Mathematical model predicts increase in postmenopausal osteoporosis fractures by 2020

Researchers in Sweden and the UK have released a report that predicts a general increase of osteoporosis-related injuries over the next decade among aging women.

The study, which appears in the journal Osteoporosis International, forecasts an 11.5 percent rise in postmenopausal, osteoporosis-related fractures between the years 2009 and 2020, based on hospital data collected in Sweden.

Researchers said that this prediction model is easily applicable to other developed nations, including the U.S.

Broken bones caused by reduced bone density are a common problem, and their effects include more than just reduced height and poorer posture among the elderly. Nearly 16,000 Americans over the age of 65 die each year from falls and osteoporosis-related fractures, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).

In the new study, scientists analyzed Swedish data concerning the incidence of osteoporosis, low bone mass, falls, fracture sites and deaths caused by osteoporosis-related broken bones among women.

The team used a Markov model - in which the likelihood of each incident depends on previous incidents - to extend statistical trends into the future.

Besides predicting a nearly 12 percent rise in postmenopausal fractures, researchers determined that the injury type most likely to increase in prevalence will be vertebral pressure fractures, in which the body's weight causes vertebrae to collapse.

The occurrence of these fractures is expected to increase by almost 14 percent in the coming decade, while osteoporosis-related hip fractures among postmenopausal women will rise by more than 12 percent, the team estimated.

Based on the projected increase in low bone mass density, the research team predicted that the overall incidence of postmenopausal osteoporosis will rise by 0.6 percent by the year 2020. In the U.S., this translates to an additional 48,000 cases of osteoporosis diagnosed among women each year.

Currently, 8 million women and 2 million men in the U.S. have the condition, according to the NOF. The organization estimates that as of 2025, more than 3 million osteoporosis-related fractures will occur each year, costing the country $25.3 billion annually.