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Study Reveals New Insights Into Bone Fragility

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New research on bone weakness in spinal cord injury patients also has implications for those with osteoporosis.

A team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the United States found that standard bone density scans may underestimate the risk of suffering a fracture. People paralysed by spinal cord injuries lose mechanical strength in their leg bones faster, and more significantly, than previously believed, the researchers said.

As a result of this weakness, patients are at greater risk of fractures from minor stresses.

Senior author Dr. Karen Troy, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at WPI, explained: “It´s not just a question of how much bone mass is lost, but where that loss is occurring. We found that bone loss occurred sooner in mechanically important areas and significantly increased the risk of fracture.”

So what are the implications? According to the researchers, the results suggest that therapies for spinal cord injury patients need to start sooner in order to maintain bone mass and strength. That´s important to help prevent injuries and also to keep patients eligible for treatments and technologies currently in development.

And physicians treating patients with osteoporosis need to think beyond the standard bone density tests when assessing the risks of hip fractures and other injuries, the researchers said.

The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, in a paper titled ‘Reduction in Proximal Femoral Strength in Patients With Acute Spinal Cord Injury´.