Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Important risk factors and attributable risk of vertebral fractures in the population-based Tromsø study

Svanhild Waterloo1*, Tuan Nguyen2, Luai A Ahmed3, Jacqueline R Center24, Bente Morseth1, Nguyen D Nguyen2, John A Eisman24, Anne J Søgaard5 and Nina Emaus3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, 9037, Norway

2 Garvan Institute of Medical Research, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

3 Department of Health and Care Sciences, University of Tromsø, 9037, Tromsø, Norway

4 St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, Australia

5 Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2012, 13:163  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-163

Published: 31 August 2012



Vertebral fractures, the most common type of osteoporotic fractures, are associated with increased risk of subsequent fracture, morbidity, and mortality. The aim of this study was to examine the contribution of important risk factors to the variability in vertebral fracture risk.


Vertebral fracture was ascertained by VFA method (DXA, GE Lunar Prodigy) in 2887 men and women, aged between 38 and 87 years, in the population-based Tromsø Study 2007/2008. Bone mineral density (BMD; g/cm2) at the hip was measured by DXA. Lifestyle information was collected by questionnaires. Multivariable logistic regression model, with anthropometric and lifestyle factors included, was used to assess the association between each or combined risk factors and vertebral fracture risk. Population attributable risk was estimated for combined risk factors in the final multivariable model.


In both sexes, age (odds ratio [OR] per 5 year increase: 1.32; 95% CI 1.19-1.45 in women and 1.21; 95% CI 1.10-1.33 in men) and BMD (OR per SD decrease: 1.60; 95% CI 1.34-1.90 in women and1.40; 95% CI 1.18-1.67 in men) were independent risk factors for vertebral fracture. At BMD levels higher than 0.85 g/cm2, men had a greater risk of fracture than women (OR 1.52; 95% CI 1.14-2.04), after adjusting for age. In women and men, respectively, approximately 46% and 33% of vertebral fracture risk was attributable to advancing age (more than 70 years) and low BMD (less than 0.85 g/cm2), with the latter having a greater effect than the former.


These data confirm that age and BMD are major risk factors for vertebral fracture risk. However, in both sexes the two factors accounted for less than half of fracture risk. The identification of individuals with vertebral fracture is still a challenge.

Morphometry; Vertebral fractures; Risk factors; Population based study; Population attributable risk (par)