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Stroke. 2002 May;33(5):1432-6.

Falls, fractures, and osteoporosis after stroke: time to think about protection?

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  • 1Department of Stroke Medicine, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK.



Osteoporosis is a significant complication of stroke. The clinical course of hemiplegic stroke predisposes patients to disturbed bone physiology. Sudden immobility and unilateral loss of function unload the skeleton at key areas such as the affected hip. This is manifest by an early reduction in bone density at this site. Stroke patients may also have motor, sensory, and visual/perceptual deficits that predispose them to falls. These factors result in an early but sustained increase in hip fractures after stroke.


Potential bone loss is often overlooked in stroke treatment. Morbidity and mortality from hip fractures might be reduced by preventing bone loss at an early stage. In the crucial first year after stroke, bone loss seems to be due to accelerated resorption. Bisphosphonates are the drugs of choice in preventing osteoclastic bone resorption, but oral administration soon after stroke may be impractical. Potent new intravenous bisphosphonates have been used in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis with good preliminary results. Effective dosing regimens for osteoporosis have included a single annual or semiannual injection of bisphosphonate as well as weekly oral dosing. This article reviews the current literature on osteoporosis and hip fractures after stroke, making a case for a trial of intravenous bisphosphonates early after stroke.


Hip fracture after stroke is an increasingly recognized problem. Measures to prevent bone loss and preserve bone architecture have not been part of stroke management thus far. Because rapid bone loss is a risk factor for fracture, we believe that a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of intravenous bisphosphonates given in the early phase of stroke rehabilitation is indicated.

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