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Study Finds Stroke Survivors Over 65 More Likely To Experience Fractures

A bone density exam can screen for osteoporosis.

A recent study of people 65 and older found stroke survivors four times more likely to suffer a fracture than someone with no history of stroke.

Some of this results from reduced mobility after a stroke.

However, Dr. Tanya Dixon, a neurosurgeon at Texas Health Fort Worth, says much of the problem has to do with a lack of screening for such dangers such as falling, broken bones and osteoporosis – or a loss of bone density.


Age and osteoporosis: "Women are prone to osteoporosis to begin with after menopause. So, if we take that into account, we’re talking about more of people over 65 that would have strokes."

How stroke leads to osteoporosis: "The muscle strength that we usually have to support the bones we usually would not have it if we’ve had a stroke. That muscle would be atrophied, so there would be no support to help us to support the bone structure."

Osteoporosis is a common complication of stroke: "It is, and I think it’s underreported. This is something we can actually prevent. Compression fractures, if you have a stroke, are not the greatest things to have. You’re not able to move around, you’re in terrible pain and the surgical options for osteoporotic fractures  are not that spectacular."

Importance of screening for osteoporosis: "The osteoporosis could be treated. If we screen beforehand, if we know a person just had a stroke, and let’s say before that they did not have any bone density screening, if we screen them at that point, we can augment bone structure so that they’re not as prone to have fractures."

Why screening doesn’t happen often enough: "We haven’t truly made the correlation before. People haven’t been investigating it in real practice. So that’s how we usually change our practice is when a large study comes out and all of us agree with it and say this is something we can prevent, we need to use it and utilize it in our practice."


Study on stroke survivors and broken bones

Majority of People Who Have Stroke Not Screened for Osteoporosis Despite Increased Risk

American Heart Association article on Stroke study


Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.