Population studies suggest that rib fractures are associated with a reduction in bone mass. While much is known about the predictive risk of hip, spine and distal forearm fracture on the risk of future fracture, little is known about the impact of rib fracture. The aim of this study was to determine whether a recalled history of rib fracture was associated with an increased risk of future limb fracture. Men and women aged 50 years and over were recruited from population registers in 31 European centres for participation in a screening survey of osteoporosis (European Prospective Osteoporosis Study). Subjects were invited to complete an interviewer-administered questionnaire that included questions about previous fractures including rib fracture, the age of their first fracture and also the level of trauma. Lateral spine radiographs were performed and the presence of vertebral deformity was determined morphometrically. Following the baseline survey, subjects were followed prospectively by annual postal questionnaire to determine the occurrence of clinical fractures. The subjects included 6,344 men, with a mean age of 64.2 years, and 6,788 women, with a mean age of 63.6 years, who were followed for a median of 3 years (range 0.4–5.9 years), of whom 135 men (2.3%) and 101 women (1.6%) reported a previous low trauma rib fracture. In total, 138 men and 391 women sustained a limb fracture during follow-up. In women, after age adjustment, those with a recalled history of low trauma rib fracture had an increased risk of sustaining ‘any’ limb fracture [relative hazard (RH) =2.3; 95% CI 1.3, 4.0]. When stratified by fracture type the predictive risk was more marked for hip (RH=7.7; 95% CI 2.3, 25.9) and humerus fracture (RH=4.5; 95% CI 1.4, 14.6) than other sites (RH=1.6; 95% CI 0.6, 4.3). Additional adjustment for prevalent vertebral deformity and previous (non-rib) low trauma fractures at other sites slightly reduced the strength of the association between rib fracture and subsequent limb fracture. In men, after age adjustment, there was a small though non-significant association between recalled history of rib fracture and future limb fracture. Our data highlight the importance of rib fracture as a marker of bone fragility in women.
Epidemiology Incident limb fracture Prospective study Osteoporosis Rib fracture