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Past falls help predict fracture risk independent of other factors

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A person’s history of past falls can help predict their risk of future bone fractures, independent of bone mineral density and other clinical factors, according to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

The findings “clearly confirm” the value of falls in fracture risk assessment, the authors said.

Although previous falls are already a well-established predictor of future fractures, until now there has been little evidence regarding the specific value of falls history in fracture risk assessment relative to that of other clinical risk factors and bone mineral density measurement.

The researchers used data from the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men (MrOS) study, which included 4,365 men in United States, 1,823 in Sweden and 1,669 in Hong Kong, with an average age ranging from 72.4 to 75.4 years and average follow-up time from 8.7 to 10.8 years.

Rates of past falls in the three countries were similar at 20%, 16% and 15%, respectively.

Even after accounting for results from the Fracture Risk Assessment Tool (FRAX) and/or bone mineral density tests, past falls were associated with a 63%-71% increased risk of a new fracture occurring.

“We have demonstrated that previous falls and high FRAX probability independently predict the risk of future fracture,” the authors wrote.

The findings demonstrate “that the fracture risk associated with prior falls is relevant over and above the risk identified by the current global standard approach of FRAX and bone mineral density,” said lead author Professor Nicholas Harvey from the University of Southampton.