Objectives Patients with osteoarthritis have increased bone mass but no decrease in fractures. The association between self-reported osteoarthritis and incident falls and fractures was studied in postmenopausal women.
Methods The Global Longitudinal Study of Osteoporosis in Women is a prospective multinational cohort of 60 393 non-institutionalised women aged ≥55 years who had visited primary care practices within the previous 2 years. Questionnaires were mailed at yearly intervals. Patients were classified as having osteoarthritis if they answered yes to the question, ‘Has a doctor or other health provider ever said that you had osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease?’, and this was validated against primary care records in a subsample. Information on incident falls, fractures and covariates was self-reported. Cox and Poisson models were used for incident fractures and number of falls, respectively, to compute hazard ratios (HRs) and rate ratios (RRs) for baseline osteoarthritis status.
Results Of 51 386 women followed for a median of 2.9 years (interquartile range 2.1–3.0), 20 409 (40%) reported osteoarthritis. The adjusted HR for osteoarthritis predicting fracture was 1.21 (95% CI 1.13 to 1.30; p<0.0001) and the adjusted RR for falls was 1.24 (95% CI 1.22 to 1.26; p<0.0001). However, the association between osteoarthritis and fracture was not significant after adjustment for incident falls (HR 1.06 (95% CI 0.98 to 1.15; p=0.13)).
Conclusions Postmenopausal women with self-reported osteoarthritis have a 20% increased risk of fracture and experience 25% more falls than those without osteoarthritis. These data suggest that increased falls are the causal pathway of the association between osteoarthritis and fractures.
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