, Volume 17, Issue 10, pp 1380-1390,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 27 Aug 2008

The course of the acute vertebral body fragility fracture: its effect on pain, disability and quality of life during 12 months


The vertebral body fracture is the most frequent bone fragility fracture. In spite of this there is considerable uncertainty about the frequency, extent and severity of the acute pain and even more about the duration of pain, the magnitude of disability and how much daily life is disturbed in the post-fracture period. The aim of the present study was to follow the course of pain, disability, ADL and QoL in patients during the year after an acute low energy vertebral body fracture. The study design was a longitudinal cohort study with prospective data collection. All the patients over 40 years admitted to the emergency unit because of back pain with a radiologically acute vertebral body fracture were eligible. A total of 107 patients were followed for a year. The pain, disability (von Korff pain and disability scores), ADL (Hannover ADL score), and QoL (EQ-5D) were measured after 3 weeks, 3, 6 and 12 months. Two-thirds of the patients were women, and were similar in average age, as the men around 75 years. A total of 65.4% of the fractures were due to a level fall or a minor trauma, whereas 34.6% had no recollection of trauma or a specific event as the cause of the fracture. A total of 76.6% of the fractured patients were immediately mobilized and allowed to return home while the remaining were hospitalized. The average pain intensity score after 3 weeks was 70.9 (SD 19.3), the disability score 68.9 (SD 23.6), the ADL score 37.7 (SD 22.1) and EQ-5D score of 0.37 (SD 0.37). The largest improvements, 10–15%, occurred between the initial visit and the 3 months follow-up and were quite similar for all the measures. From 3 months, all the outcome measures leveled out or tended to deteriorate resulting in a mean pain intensity score of 60.5, disability score of 53.9, ADL score of 47.6, and EQ-5D score 0.52 after 12 months. After a whole year the fractured patients’ condition was similar to the preoperative condition of patients with a herniated lumbar disc, central lumbar spinal stenosis or in patients 100% work disabled due to back or neck problems. Instead of the generally believed good prognosis for the greater majority of those fractured, the acute vertebral body fracture was the beginning of a long-lasting severe deterioration of their health.