Open Accessibility Menu

Osteoporosis: A Brittle Reality

  • Category: Arthritis
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Michael L. Gordon, MD

Osteoporosis is a progressive disease of bone loss that afflicts 28 million Americans. When bones lose their density, they become more porous and susceptible to fracture. It is estimated that 1.5 million bone fractures occur each year. Why is this alarming? Only 25 percent of hip fracture patients will make a full recovery. Forty percent will require nursing home care, and 50 percent will need a cane or walker. Nearly one-in-four hip fracture patients will die within 12 months after the injury due to complications associated with the injury and recovery.

Age is a major risk factor for osteoporosis because after 35, the body builds less new bone. Preventive measures are key to avoiding osteoporosis. An adequate calcium intake and a lifetime of weight-bearing exercise can help prevent loss of bone mass. But what can be done for an advanced case of osteoporosis?

At Newport Orthopedic Institute, we treat fractures associated with the disease every day. Although it more common in women, osteoporosis will lead to bone fractures in one in five men over age 65. For women over 65, the incidence of bone fractures is one in two. That is why we recommend that women have a baseline dexascan performed after age 50.

When I see a patient with osteoporosis, I usually recommend aggressive treatment with diet, exercise, and calcium supplementation. Drugs such as Actonel, Fosamax or Boniva can increase bone mineral density and decrease fracture rates by 50 percent per year . One drug, Forteo, is a synthetic hormone that can actually build bone mass , but requires daily injections for up to a year at a time.

When osteoporosis has led to collapse of the vertebrae, a minimally invasive procedure called kyphoplasty can help bring relief. Kyphoplasty uses a balloon and bone cement to restore the vertebral body height and shape, and strengthen the spine. The procedure may be performed under sedation using either local or general anesthetic, and generally helps alleviate the discomfort of painful vertebral fractures