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J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2012 Mar;94(3):385-90. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.94B3.27999.

Atypical femoral fractures and bisphosphonate treatment: experience in two large United Kingdom teaching hospitals.

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  • 1Royal Victoria Hospital, Department of Trauma and Orthopaedics, Grosvenor Road, Belfast BT12 6BA, UK.


We performed a retrospective review of all patients admitted to two large University Hospitals in the United Kingdom over a 24-month period from January 2008 to January 2010 to identify the incidence of atypical subtrochanteric and femoral shaft fractures and their relationship to bisphosphonate treatment. Of the 3515 patients with a fracture of the proximal femur, 156 fractures were in the subtrochanteric region. There were 251 femoral shaft fractures. The atypical fracture pattern was seen in 27 patients (7%) with 29 femoral shaft or subtrochanteric fractures. A total of 22 patients with 24 atypical fractures were receiving bisphosphonate treatment at the time of fracture. Prodromal pain was present in nine patients (11 fractures); 11 (50%) of the patients on bisphosphonates suffered 12 spontaneous fractures, and healing of these fractures was delayed in a number of patients. This large dual-centre review has established the incidence of atypical femoral fractures at 7% of the study population, 81% of whom had been on bisphosphonate treatment for a mean of 4.6 years (0.04 to 12.1). This study does not advocate any change in the use of bisphosphonates to prevent fragility fractures but attempts to raise awareness of this possible problem so symptomatic patients will be appropriately investigated. However, more work is required to identify the true extent of this new and possibly increasing problem.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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