Poor balance a simple test for hip-fracture risk

If you want to know whether an older patient is at risk for hip fracture, just ask. A team of Swedish researchers has found that self-reported impaired balance could be a risk factor for future fractures in the elderly.

“There is a need for a simple tool with which to identify subjects who are at increased risk of injurious falls,” explain Helene Wagner of the orthopedics section at University Hospital in Uppsala, Sweden, and colleagues (
Am J Epidemiol. 2009;169:143-149). “Self-reported impaired balance might be such a readily accessible risk factor.”

Over the course of two years, the investigators oversaw computer-assisted telephone interviews with 24,598 twins age 55 years and older. At the time, 12% of the twins responded “yes” to the question, “Do you have impaired balance?” The twins with poor balance had more than three times the risk of fracturing a hip as their co-twins. Impaired balance was found to be responsible for about 40% of all hip fractures.

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