Osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures per year in the United States including vertebral and nonvertebral fractures of the hip and wrist. Most of the impact of osteoporosis on quality of life relates to fracture. While the morbidity and mortality of hip fractures have long been recognized, only recently have we also recognized the significant burden of vertebral fractures. With the development of generic and disease targeted quality-of-life instruments we have now confirmed observational studies showing that clinical vertebral fractures have significant effects on quality of life. The economic burden of vertebral fractures, if we include direct and indirect costs, may be similar to hip fractures. The relative risk for mortality after clinical vertebral fracture is at least equivalent to that of hip fracture. The burden of vertebral fractures relates not only to pain but also to kyphosis. Because vertebral fractures are often under diagnosed and under treated, these findings are a call to action because the first vertebral fracture leads to significantly increased risk for subsequent vertebral and osteoporotic fracture with further loss of quality of life.
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