Diagnostic Criteria and Treatment of Atypical Ulnar Fractures Associated With Prolonged Bisphosphonate Therapy: Multicenter Case Analysis

Published:September 23, 2021DOI:


      Atypical ulnar fracture (AUF) related to prolonged bisphosphonate therapy is a rare complication. We propose diagnostic criteria of AUFs and present a treatment algorithm.


      Twelve AUFs in 10 patients were studied. The diagnosis of AUF was based on the case definition of atypical femoral fracture (AFF). We investigated clinical and radiographic characteristics of AUFs according to major and minor features of AFFs, and modified the case definition of an AFF to fit the characteristics of AUFs. All AUFs were treated surgically. The radiographic union of fractures was investigated, and delayed fracture healing was defined as a delay of 6 months or more.


      The average point at which AUFs occurred was at a point 35.1% along the proximal diaphysis of the total ulnar length. All major features of AFFs were identified in the 12 AUFs. Among the minor features, generalized cortical thickening was observed in 6 AUFs, prodromal symptoms in 2 AUFs, bilateral involvement in 2 patients, and delayed fracture healing in 10 AUFs (5 delayed union, 5 nonunion). Initially, 11 of 12 AUFs were treated with plating, and 1 was treated with intramedullary nailing. Two nonunions were revised with sclerotic bone resections, bone grafts, and plate fixation. Finally, union was achieved in 9 AUFs.


      The case definition of AFFs can be used for the diagnosis of AUFs, although some modifications must be included in the case definition. Plating is useful in managing AUFs, although sclerotic bone resections and bone grafts may be required. Atypical ulnar fractures occurred in patients who took bisphosphonates longer than AFFs or those whose bisphosphonates were discontinued a few years earlier. Therefore, physicians should be aware of AUFs in those patients and, if necessary, perform a screening test to look for atypical fractures in other bones.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Diagnostic V.

      Key Words

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