Vitamin D Deficiency High Among Trauma Patients

New research has produced a startling statistic: 77 percent of trauma patients have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D. The research was presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

According to the researchers a lack of vitamin D has been linked with muscle weakness, bone fractures and the inability of bones to fully heal. In the study, investigators sought to determine the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among orthopedic trauma patients.

Investigators reviewed the medical records of 1,830 adult (ages 18 and older) patients at a university level 1 trauma center from Jan. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010. Participants with vitamin D levels below 20 ng/mL were categorized as deficient, and those with levels between 20 and 32 ng/mL as insufficient (levels between 40 and 70 ng/mL are considered healthy).

The results: 39 percent of all patients were vitamin D deficient, and another 38.4 percent had insufficient levels of vitamin D. Patients ages 18 to 25 had the lowest levels of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency of any age group, and yet 29 percent were deficient and 54.7 percent were insufficient.

"Vitamin D deficiency affects patients of all ages and is more prevalent than we thought it was," said Dr. Brett Crist, lead investigator and co-director of the Orthopaedic Trauma Service, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Missouri. The findings are important "as vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased incidences of fracture nonunions (bone breaks that fail to heal)," he said.

Crist said the findings mean physicians should consider treating fracture patients with a supplement to ensure optimal outcomes.

An adult needs at least 1,000 IUs of vitamin D (10 glasses of milk and one fish meal each day), and a child needs 400 to 800 IUs for good health, depending on age, weight and growth. To ensure appropriate levels of vitamin D, a daily supplement is recommended for children and adults.