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Osteoporotic fractures and hospitalization risk in chronic spinal cord injury

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Osteoporosis is a well acknowledged complication of spinal cord injury. We report that motor complete spinal cord injury and post-injury alcohol consumption are risk factors for hospitalization for fracture treatment. The clinical assessment did not include osteoporosis diagnosis and treatment considerations, indicating a need for improved clinical protocols.


Treatment of osteoporotic long bone fractures often results in lengthy hospitalizations for individuals with spinal cord injury. Clinical features and factors that contribute to hospitalization risk have not previously been described.


Three hundred and fifteen veterans ≥ 1 year after spinal cord injury completed a health questionnaire and underwent clinical exam at study entry. Multivariate Cox regression accounting for repeated events was used to assess longitudinal predictors of fracture-related hospitalizations in Veterans Affairs Medical Centers 1996–2003.


One thousand four hundred and eighty-seven hospital admissions occurred among 315 participants, and 39 hospitalizations (2.6%) were for fracture treatment. Median length of stay was 35 days. Fracture-related complications occurred in 53%. Independent risk factors for admission were motor complete versus motor incomplete spinal cord injury (hazard ratio = 3.73, 95% CI = 1.46–10.50). There was a significant linear trend in risk with greater alcohol consumption after injury. Record review indicated that evaluation for osteoporosis was not obtained during these admissions.


Assessed prospectively, hospitalization in Veterans Affairs Medical Centers for low-impact fractures is more common in motor complete spinal cord injury and is associated with greater alcohol use after injury. Osteoporosis diagnosis and treatment considerations were not part of a clinical assessment, indicating the need for improved protocols that might prevent low-impact fractures and related admissions.

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We wish to acknowledge Joda Alian for her kind assistance in manuscript editing and preparation.

Conflicts of interest



The project reported/outlined here was supported by the Office of Research and Development, Health Services R&D Service, Quality Enhancement Research Initiative RRP-07–312 and NIH/NICHD RO1 HD42141 (Dr. Garshick). Dr. Garshick is the Associate Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at VA Boston Healthcare System. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Correspondence to L. R. Morse.

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Morse, L.R., Battaglino, R.A., Stolzmann, K.L. et al. Osteoporotic fractures and hospitalization risk in chronic spinal cord injury. Osteoporos Int 20, 385–392 (2009).

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