Because vitamin D is an essential component in repairing bone damage, patients with low vitamin D levels are at higher risk for improper healing of broken bones.
The University of Missouri researchers examined vitamin D levels in about 900 adults who suffered traumatic bone fractures as the result of incidents such as falls and car crashes.
About 79 percent of men and 76 percent of women in the study had lower-than-recommended vitamin D levels, and about 40 percent of the women and 38 percent of the men had severely low vitamin D levels.
"One interesting finding of the study is that low and deficient vitamin D is common for orthopedic trauma patients of all ages," Brett Crist, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery, said in a university news release. "We found that among young adults 18 to 25 years old, nearly 55 percent had low or severely low vitamin D, and 29 percent had deficient levels."
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, as well as at other conferences. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Based on their findings, the researchers have started prescribing vitamin D medication for nearly all patients with broken bones as a protective measure to reduce the risk of healing problems.
"More research is needed to demonstrate whether vitamin D medications can reduce the risk of bones not healing properly," Crist said. "But we know vitamin D is required for repairing damage to bones, and for most people there is very little risk in taking vitamin D medications. At this point, we believe it's a reasonable step for physicians to prescribe the medication as a protective measure."
However, high levels of vitamin D can be dangerous for people with certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease or cancer. People should talk to their doctor before using vitamin D supplements, Crist said.
The Harvard School of Public Health has more about vitamin D and health.