WASHINGTON--Patients with COVID-19 and vertebral fractures are twice as likely to die from the disease, according to a study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Vertebral fractures occur when the bony block or vertebral body in the spine collapses, which can lead to severe pain, deformity and loss of height. These fractures are typically caused by osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones). Vertebral fractures are prevalent in COVID-19 patients and can influence cardiorespiratory function and disease outcomes.
"Vertebral fractures are a marker of frailty, and for the first time we show that individuals who have such fractures appear to be at increased risk of severe COVID-19," said the study's corresponding author, Andrea Giustina, M.D., Director of the Institute of Endocrine and Metabolic Sciences of the San Raffaele Vita-Salute University and IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital in Milano, Italy. "A simple thoracic x-ray can detect these fractures and morphometric evaluation should be performed in COVID-19 patients at hospital admission."
The researchers studied the x-rays of 114 COVID-19 patients and detected thoracic vertebral fractures in 35 percent. These patients were older and more affected by high blood pressure and heart disease. They were more likely to need ventilators and were twice as likely to die compared to those without fractures. The death rate was higher in patients with severe fractures.