Break me twice, shame on you: Among osteoporotic men, first vertebral fracture boosts risk of second

Data presented at the annual conference of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) indicates that male osteoporosis patients who suffer one vertebral pressure fracture have a significantly increased risk of experiencing another.

Scientists from six universities announced that men who have had one vertebral fracture have a 15 percent chance of experiencing the same injury again within the next five years. By comparison, men who have never had such a fracture have only 4 percent incidence of this type of injury over the same amount of time.

These figures were based on health information collected from nearly 6,000 American males in the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study. Researchers said that their results amount to some of the first solid findings on the risk of re-fracture among osteoporotic men.

So why are men who experience a vertebral pressure fracture at nearly quadruple the risk of a second one?

The authors said that only a few risk factors helped to predict male fracture risk. These included advanced age, height loss and difficulty standing up from a sitting position.

Of course, whether male or female, individuals who experience a vertebral pressure are more likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis. In fact, the National Osteoporosis Foundation lists this type of injury as a prime indicator of the disease. Likewise, a hunched spine (called "kyphosis") and loss of height are common diagnostic criteria for low bone mass density (BMD), since both are caused by a gradual collapse of the vertebrae.

In concluding their ASBMR presentation, the research team was blunt.

"Older men with existing vertebral fractures and/or low BMD are at very high risk of new spine fracture within five years," they said, adding that few clinical factors appear to be helpful in predicting the likelihood of re-fracture.