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Calculated Risk: Shedding light on fracture hazards in elderly

When doctors evaluate an older person who has fallen and broken a bone, they immediately look for signs of osteoporosis, the brittle-bone disease. Conventional wisdom holds that low bone-mineral density, the hallmark of osteoporosis, is chiefly responsible for fractures when elderly people fall from a standing position. But when an elderly person breaks a bone in a high-trauma accident, such as a car crash or a fall from a ladder, doctors don't usually check bone density.

A new study shows that bone density can play a role in high-trauma accidents too. Participants who sustained a fracture from serious trauma had, on average, significantly lower bone density to begin with than did those who didn't get fractures.

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