Closeup of man on crutches being helped to walk by a physical therapist
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Bone fractures are associated with a loss of one to seven years of life, a new study finds. The researchers have created a “skeletal age” calculator that clinicians can use to help boost patient awareness as part of preventive care.

Investigators from the University of Technology Sydney in Australia examined data from 1.6 million adults in a Danish hospital registry with 16 years of follow-up. They found that the risk of premature death varies depending on fracture type. The highest risk was found for patients with hip fracture, with 30% of these patients dying within a year of their injury. In addition, the number of total years lost are greater for men than women.

Although doctor-patient communication regarding fracture risk involves the use of probability, patients are typically unaware of the magnitude of their risk, according to the researchers. Patients often perceive that a 5% risk of death following a hip fracture over a 5-year period means they have a 95% chance of surviving such a fracture, for example.

Lack of awareness

“Although a bone fracture can reduce a person’s lifespan, patients who suffer from a fracture don’t fully understand this reality,” study co-lead Professor Tuan Nguyen said in a statement. “With greater awareness of these risks, doctors and patients will be more likely to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of premature death.”

Nguyen and colleagues developed the publicly available BONEcheck calculator tool to help reduce the risk of premature death by supporting doctor-patient communication about osteoporosis and fragility fractures, Nguyen said.

“The Skeletal Age tool provides an alternative approach to informing patients of their fracture risk,” added Thach Tran, MD, PhD. “For example, instead of informing a 60-year-old woman that her risk of death following a hip fracture is 5%, she can be informed that her skeletal age is 65.”

Full findings were published in the journal eLife. The BONEcheck tool has its own webpage.

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