Weak Heart and Broken Bones

Many heart failure patients have undiagnosed osteoporosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) As people grow older, they have a higher risk of heart problems and broken bones. In fact, there may be a relationship between heart failure and bone loss.

However, doctors may not be paying enough attention to back injuries in heart failure patients.

A recent study shows that one in 10 heart failure patients had fractures of the spine that could have been seen by an X-ray. Many of these patients are not being treated for these fractures, which are a sign of osteoporosis - a disease in which bones become weaker.

"Many heart failure patients don't get treated for their bone health problems."

According to Kristin J. Lyons, M.D., C.M., from the University of Alberta and lead author of the study, doctors often fail to recognize and treat osteoporosis in heart failure patients.

As the American population gets older, heart disease and osteoporosis will become some of the most common diseases, says senior author Justin A. Ezekowitz, M.D., assistant professor at the University of Alberta.

Spinal fractures are the most common injury of osteoporosis, says Ezekowitz. Unfortunately, most of these injuries go unnoticed, putting patients at risk for more fractures.

Luckily, Lyons notes, chest X-rays can easily fix this problem. An X-ray can allow doctors to spot spinal fractures and to start treating heart failure patients for weak bones.

The Study

  • Researchers studied 623 heart failure patients
  • The average age of patients in the study was 69 years
  • 12 percent had moderate to severe spinal fractures, and 55 percent of those had more than one fracture
  • 85 percent of heart failure patients were not being treated for their fractures
  • Heart failure patients with atrial fibrillation - a type of abnormal heart rhythm - were twice as likely to have spinal fractures as patients without atrial fibrillation
  • Heart failure patients with spinal fractures were more likely to be older, to be female, and to weigh less
  • Chest X-rays that are already used on heart failure patients are an easy way to spot spinal fractures
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 11, 2011
Last Updated:
May 12, 2011