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Fragility Fractures and Osteoporosis

June 26, 2023

Fragility Fractures and Osteoporosis - featured image

Fragility fractures are a common type of bone fracture that occurs as a result of a fall from a standing height or when a minor accident has occurred. Professor Sithombo Maqungo is part of Busamed Paardevlei’s Fragility Fracture Unit. He says fragility fractures are typically caused by low-energy events, such as slipping on a wet floor or tripping over a curb as opposed to a high-energy event like car crashes or climbing.

“Fragility fractures and osteoporosis affect seniors more than any other population group, although it is important to note that it can also occur in younger individuals, particularly those with bone disorders.”

Fragility fractures can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. Prof. Maqungo says the pain and discomfort associated with a fracture can make it difficult to perform daily activities. Some fractures may even require surgery or other interventions in order for the patient to heal properly.

This is why preventing fragility fractures is such an important goal to have as a senior or someone living with a bone disorder. “As physicians we always start with lifestyle modifications. This includes regular exercise and a healthy diet,” says Prof. Maqungo. He adds that medications such as bisphosphonates are also known to help strengthen bones, but these should be taken in consultation with a doctor.

In addition to lifestyle interventions, Prof. Maqungo says preventing injuries is the next vital step. “This would include removing tripping hazards from living spaces, using assistive devices such as a cane or walker, and yes, even slowing down and not rushing about. “By taking these steps, patients can reduce their risk of fragility fractures and maintain their independence and quality of life.”

Prof. Maqungo says osteoporosis is not very well understood in the public domain, because it is still not fully understood what causes its onset. Osteoporosis is a disease characterised by low bone mass and the structural deterioration of bone tissue with a consequent increase in bone fragility and susceptibility to a fragility fracture.

With osteoporosis bones become weak and brittle over time. This is typically why the condition is diagnosed more commonly among seniors.

The loss of bone density can lead to fractures in the spine, hips, wrists, and other bones in the body. “In severe cases, osteoporosis can cause vertebral compression fractures, which can be painful and disabling.” says Prof. Maqungo.

Some of the factors known to cause osteoporosis include genetics, hormonal changes, and lifestyle factors. “Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during menopause, can lead to a loss of bone mass and density,” says Prof. Maqungo.

He adds that preventing and managing osteoporosis requires a combination of lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Prof. Sithombo Maqungo

Prof. Sithombo Maqungo

Orthopaedic Surgery,
Busamed Paardevlei Private Hospital

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