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Osteoporosis is defined as a reduction in the strength of bone that leads to increased risk of fractures. It is defined operationally as a bone density that falls 2.5 SD below the mean for a young normal individual (a T-score of <–2.5). Those with a T-score of <1.0 (osteopenia) have low bone density and are at increased risk for osteoporosis. The most common sites for osteoporosis-related fractures are the vertebrae, hip, and distal radius.

Osteoporosis is a common condition in the elderly; women are at particularly high risk. In the United States, 8 million women and 2 million men have osteoporosis; an additional 18 million have osteopenia. The annual incidence of osteoporosis-related fractures is at least 2 million; almost half of them are vertebral crush fractures, followed in frequency by hip and wrist fractures. Hip fractures are associated with significant morbidity (thromboembolism) and a 5–20% mortality within a year.


Low bone density may result from low peak bone mass or increased bone loss. Risk factors for an osteoporotic fracture are listed in Table 180-1, and conditions associated with osteoporosis are listed in Table 180-2. Certain drugs, primarily glucocorticoids, cyclosporine, cytotoxic drugs, thiazolidinediones, anticonvulsants, aluminum, heparin, excessive levothyroxine, GnRH agonists, and aromatase inhibitors also have detrimental effects on the skeleton.

TABLE 180-1Risk Factors for Osteoporosis Fracture
TABLE 180-2Conditions, Diseases, and Medications That Contribute to Osteoporosis and Fractures

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