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Timing and risk factors for clinical fractures among postmenopausal women: a 5-year prospective study

Antonia CM van Geel1*, Piet P Geusens3, Ivo F Nagtzaam1, Cyril MJR Schreurs1, Danny JM van der Voort1, Paula ELM Rinkens1, Arnold DM Kester2 and Geert-Jan Dinant1

Author Affiliations

1 Care and Public Health Research Institute, Department of General Practice, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands

2 Department of Methodology and Statistics, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

3 Department of Internal Medicine and LUC, Diepenbeek, Belgium

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BMC Medicine 2006, 4:24  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-4-24

Published: 9 October 2006



Many risk factors for fractures have been documented, including low bone-mineral density (BMD) and a history of fractures. However, little is known about the short-term absolute risk (AR) of fractures and the timing of clinical fractures. Therefore, we assessed the risk and timing of incident clinical fractures, expressed as 5-year AR, in postmenopausal women.


In total, 10 general practice centres participated in this population-based prospective study. Five years after a baseline assessment, which included clinical risk factor evaluation and BMD measurement, 759 postmenopausal women aged between 50 and 80 years, were re-examined, including undergoing an evaluation of clinical fractures after menopause. Risk factors for incident fractures at baseline that were significant in univariate analyses were included in a multivariate Cox survival regression analysis. The significant determinants were used to construct algorithms.


In the total group, 12.5% (95% confidence interval (CI) 10.1–14.9) of the women experienced a new clinical fracture. A previous clinical fracture after menopause and a low BMD (T-score <-1.0) were retained as significant predictors with significant interaction. Women with a recent previous fracture (during the past 5 years) had an AR of 50.1% (95% CI 42.0–58.1) versus 21.2% (95% CI 20.7–21.6) if the previous fracture had occurred earlier. In women without a fracture history, the AR was 13.8% (95% CI 10.9–16.6) if BMD was low and 7.0% (95% CI 5.5–8.5) if BMD was normal.


In postmenopausal women, clinical fractures cluster in time. One in two women with a recent clinical fracture had a new clinical fracture within 5 years, regardless of BMD. The 5-year AR for a first clinical fracture was much lower and depended on BMD.