, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 27-31
Date: 04 Nov 2003

Radiocalcium absorption is reduced in postmenopausal women with vertebral and most types of peripheral fractures

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Intestinal calcium absorption accounts for 60% of the variance in calcium balance and is therefore a potentially very important determinant of bone status. Whether measured by the balance technique or with radiocalcium, it is known to be significantly reduced in postmenopausal women with vertebral and hip fractures. By contrast, there is very little information about calcium absorption in other types of postmenopausal fracture. We now report a series of 549 untreated, Caucasian postmenopausal women in whom we recorded prevalent fractures, measured radiocalcium absorption, and obtained radiographs of the lateral thoracic and lumbar spine. Of these women, 172 had no prevalent fractures, showed normal spine radiographs, and served as controls; 72 had one or more peripheral fractures but normal spine radiographs; 147 had one or more wedged or crushed vertebrae but no peripheral fractures; and 158 had a history of peripheral fracture and one or more fractured vertebrae. Age-adjusted radiocalcium absorption was significantly lower in the two groups with spinal fractures than in the controls (P<0.001) but not in the group with peripheral fractures only. It was also lower in the cases with more than two spinal fractures than in those with two or less (P<0.001). In respect of peripheral fractures, the greatest age-adjusted absorption deficit was found in fractures of the humerus (35%) followed by hip (32%), spine (21%), wrist (19%), and rib 17% (all significant but not significantly different from each other). Lesser deficits in tibia, ankle and foot fractures were not significant but type 2 errors could not be excluded. We conclude that impaired calcium absorption is particularly associated with those fractures for which osteoporosis is a significant risk factor.