, Volume 22, Issue 8, pp 2365-2371,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 09 Nov 2010

Prevalence of vertebral fractures on chest radiographs of elderly African American and Caucasian women



The prevalence of vertebral fractures on routine chest radiographs of elderly Caucasian women was only 1.3 times higher than in African American (AA) women, a difference considerably smaller than reported in population studies. AAs with medical problems may have higher risk of vertebral fractures than previously suspected.


Earlier studies noted a 1.9- to 3.7-fold higher prevalence of vertebral fractures in Caucasian (CA) compared to African American (AA) women. These studies, however, may have suffered from selection bias. We reported that among women referred for bone density testing, the prevalence of vertebral fractures in AA was the same as in CA women. Suspecting that the latter might have been due to a referral bias, we examined the racial difference in the prevalence of vertebra fractures on chest radiographs of patients seeking general medical care, not selected for osteoporosis.


Consecutive chest radiographs (N = 1,200) of women over age 60 were evaluated using Genant's semi-quantitative method. Patients' race and the presence of diseases or medications associated with increased fracture risk were ascertained from the electronic medical records.


Among 1,011 women (76% AA) with usable radiographs, 11% had moderate or severe vertebral fractures. The prevalence of vertebral fractures was 10.3% in 773 AA and 13% in 238 CA women (p = 0.248 for difference between races). The lack of difference persisted after controlling for age, smoking, use of glucocorticoids, or presence of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, organ transplantation, and end-stage renal disease. Among all subjects, CA women were more likely to be diagnosed and treated for osteoporosis (p < 0.001).


Among subjects seeking medical care, the difference in the prevalence of vertebral fractures between AA and CA women is smaller than previously suspected. Greater attention to the detection of vertebral fractures and the management of osteoporosis is warranted in AA women with medical problems.