Reduction in proximal femoral strength in patients with acute spinal cord injury

W. Brent Edwards*, Thomas J. Schnitzer, Karen L. Troy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Bone loss after spinal cord injury (SCI) is associated with an increased risk of fracture resulting from minor trauma. Proximal femoral fractures account for approximately 10% to 20% of the fractures in this population and are among the most serious of injuries. Our purpose was to quantify changes to proximal femoral strength in patients with acute SCI. Thirteen subjects received dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and clinical computed tomography (CT) scans at serial time points during acute SCI separated by a mean of 3.5 months (range 2.6 to 4.8 months). Areal bone mineral density (aBMD) at the proximal femur was quantified from DXA, and proximal femoral strength was predicted using CT-based finite element (FE) modeling in a sideways fall configuration. During the acute period of SCI, femoral neck and total proximal femur aBMD decreased by 2.0±1.1%/month (p<0.001) and 2.2±0.7%/month (p<0.001), respectively. The observed reductions in aBMD were associated with a 6.9±2.0%/month (p<0.001) reduction in femoral strength. Thus, changes in femoral strength were some 3 times greater than the observed changes in aBMD (p<0.001). It was interesting to note that in just 3.5 months of acute SCI, reductions in strength for some patients were on the order of that predicted for lifetime declines owing to aging. Therefore, it is important that therapeutic interventions are implemented soon after SCI in an effort to halt bone loss and decrease fracture risk. In addition, clinicians utilizing DXA to monitor bone health after SCI should be aware of the potential discrepancy between changes in aBMD and strength.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2074-2079
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • DXA
  • QCT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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