Hip Fractures Can Be Life-Threatening Injury for Older Adults

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Early 1950’s American singer Eddie Fisher passed away late Wednesday evening at his California home after suffering complications from a recent hip surgery. It is reported that Mr. Fisher, 82, broke his hip 13 days ago. Zsa Zsa Gabor is another Hollywood celebrity to recently have complications after hip surgery.

Each year, there are an estimated 9 million osteoporotic fractures, with 1.9 million of those being at the hip. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, the number of people suffering from hip fractures has increased by 25-50%. Most hip fractures occur in women, but about 20-25% occur in men and overall mortality is higher in men than in women.

Elderly fracture fatalities are high

In the Special Report “Osteoporosis” by Johns Hopkins University, approximately 25% of people over 50 who fracture a hip die within the first year of the injury. Common causes of mortality include blood clots, pneumonia, or infection.

Most hip fractures in the elderly are caused by falls, sometimes one that at the time appeared “insignificant”. Osteoporosis can cause a loss of bone mass, causing those individuals to be at a much higher risk for developing hip fractures than someone with stronger bones. Just a 10% loss of bone mass in the hip can result in a 2.5 times greater risk of hip fracture.

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Read: FRAX Report for World Osteoporosis Day

Early surgery on elderly hip fracture patients has been shown to reduce the risk of death by 19%, however, surgery also inherently contains risk. In addition to about a 1% risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), surgical risks include bleeding, wound infection, urinary retention and urinary tract infections, constipation, and pulmonary embolism.

After surgery, immobility can cause complications, most notably blood clots. Being immobile can cause blood to slow and pool in the legs, creating a clot which can form in either leg, regardless of surgery location. Walking within one to three days of surgery, compression stockings, and blood thinners are used for prevention.

Read: Alternatives to Osteoporosis Bisphosphonate Drugs

Post-surgery, patients with hip fractures are prone to anxiety and depression. Rehabilitation centers combat this by referring patients to a psychologist for coping techniques.

Risk factors for osteoporosis include physical inactivity or sedentary lifestyle, inadequate intake of bone-building nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, smoking, alcohol intake, corticosteroid use, and low body weight.

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