Minimal trauma fractures: Lifting the specter of misconduct by identifying risk factors and planning for prevention

Erin Hommel, Adline Ghazi, Heidi White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Minimal trauma fractures are an unfortunate, yet not uncommon, event for frail elderly individuals in long term care facilities. These fractures result in significant morbidity including pain and loss of function along with significantly increased mortality. Further concern exists for the medico-legal issues raised after a minimal trauma fracture is discovered. The controversy at hand is whether such fractures are primarily the result of inadequate, careless, or abusive care practices. We build a case to the contrary. Although the data regarding this condition are limited, there exists a reasonable evidence base to identify an at-risk patient population. We present a representative case and subsequent literature review of minimal trauma fractures to illustrate the condition, including risk factors, mode of presentation, and patient outcomes. No direct research has been conducted on the pathophysiology of these fractures. Extrapolating from other similar conditions and likely associated comorbid illnesses, we explore possible physiologic explanations for their occurrence. Again, no direct investigation into prevention or treatment of minimal trauma fractures has been published. Instead, we consider a variety of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions that may modify the risk for minimal trauma fractures considering the previously identified risk factors and probable pathophysiologic changes leading to fracture development. We propose that reducing minimal trauma fractures in the frail elderly nursing home population will require careful staff education, close attention to identify at-risk patients, and implementation of select interventions aimed at preventing such fractures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-186
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Pathophysiology
  • Primary and/or secondary prevention
  • Risk factors
  • Spontaneous or minimal trauma fractures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Health Policy
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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