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Researchers call for more education regarding spinal cord injuries and osteoporosis

Monday, April 11, 2011By Richard Alexander
Patients with a spinal cord injury (SCIs) have a much greater risk of developing osteoporosis in paralyzed body regions, which is highlighted in a recent study which appeared in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

The study which was authored by Charles Fattal, MD, used the incidence of osteoporosis-related fractures among 32 patients with SCIs who had an average age of 53.

All had previously suffered a spinal cord injury that involved paralysis to the spine and all were wheelchair-dependent. Researchers found that 100% of the individuals had suffered at least one post SCI fracture, usually in the lower limbs.

Osteoporosis is not uncommon in patients with a spinal cord injury. Shortly after a paralyzing injury a person's metabolism changes from the decrease in muscle use. During the first 16 months following spinal injury, large quantities of calcium is excreted through their urine, regardless of their age or gender.

Decalcification and reduced strain on the bones leads to disuse osteoporosis. One-third of patients with SCIs experience at least one post-injury fracture within 15 years of the onset of paralysis.

Of the participants in Fattall's study, nine of the 53 suffered two or more disuse osteoporosis-related fractures, including two participants who broke bones on four separate occasions. Nearly all of these injuries occurred due to falls from, or transfers between, wheelchairs.

Among all Americans with osteoporosis, this injury occurs nearly 300,000 times each year, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Researchers concluded that physicians and caretakers should be aware of the common causes of fracture for people with SCIs, and that those with the injury should be educated about disuse osteoporosis.

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