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Bone. 1992;13 Suppl 2:S27-31.

The clinical consequences of vertebral compression fracture.

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Osteoporosis Medical Center, Beverly Hills, California 90210.


Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) may be defined radiographically or as a clinical event. The prevalence of these fractures in women aged 50 and over has been estimated at 26% when defined as a reduction in vertebral height greater than 15%. Retrospective reviews of case records have shown a clinical detection rate of VCF in white women of 153/100,000 person years. Of these clinically detected VCFs, 84% were associated with pain. VCF may be defined as a clinical event characterised by loss of height and acute pain. The pain of acute fracture usually lasts 4 to 6 weeks with intense pain at the site of fracture. Chronic pain may also occur in patients with multiple compression fractures, height loss and low bone density but is probably due to structural changes or osteoarthritis. Radiographic VCF may not be symptomatic. The greater the deformity, the greater the likelihood of pain and disability. As height is lost, patients experience discomfort from the rib cage pressing downward on the pelvis. Patients develop a thoracic kyphosis, a lumbar lordosis, and a protuberant abdomen with prominent horizontal skinfold creases. The reduced thoracic space may result in decreased exercise tolerance and reduced abdominal space may give rise to early satiety and weight loss. Sleep disorders may also occur. Patients lose self esteem. Self care may become difficult. They are often depressed. They become fearful of further fracture. They have distorted body image and poor health perception. Patients with one vertebral fracture are at increased risk of peripheral fracture and further vertebral fracture. The aims of acute management are to reduce symptoms and mobilise the patient as quickly as possible.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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