Breaking a Hip Elevates Risk of Death in Elderly Women

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Older women who break a hip maybe five times more likely to die within a year than their healthy-hipped peers, according to new research.

A Kaiser Permanente study of nearly 10,000 women finds that for women ages 65-69 a hip fracture boosts the risk of dying within a year by five times. It doubles the risk of early death for women ages 70-79. The question becomes: Why does this increased death risk exist?

In a video interview, Erin LeBlanc, MD, MPH, the lead author of the study offered some insight into why breaking a hip is so dangerous. According to her, the risk lies in the forced immobility caused by a hip fracture.

"Any time you're immobile, you're more at risk for infections, blood clotting, your nutrition is going to go down because you're not feeling well, and that puts the body in a weaker spot to be able to fight infections or fight any sort of illness that might come on," she says.

Dr. LeBlanc feels that this study is a "wake-up call," alerting people to the danger of hip fractures. She hopes that it will encourage doctors and their elderly patients to be more proactive with regards to preventing hip fractures and, if that fails, improving post-fracture care.

While this is not the first study to indicate that women who break their hip have an increased risk of short-term death, it is the first study to fully control for underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. This is important because these ailments can have significant impact on death risk and thus would have skewed the results if they had not been taken out the equation.

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2 Comments

I beg to differ. My grandmother broke both hips within a week of each other at the age of 88 and while suffering from Alzheimer's. This was over a year ago and she's still going strong today. Her mind isn't what it used to be but physically, she's as healthy as she ever was. This has been verified by numerous doctors and physical exams.
My mom was in her seventy's when she broke her hip after being thrown up in the air and landing on the hard street. Her dog had lunged and caused her this problem.She recovered immediatly.We were with her in the hospital and she was not drugged. Maybe the patient is given drugs in the hospital like haldol ativan and others which can cause elder people serious problems, especially if they have heart problems or other health problems. These drugs can put them in danger of loosing their life or causing health problems that weaken them when taking these drugs. It clearly states on the black box the dangers for elder people and people with heart problems and other problems for older people. I have been told by staff, that black box warnings are not important. Also they ignore people with sensitivities to these drugs which can also kill.That is why it is so very important for your loved one to be in the hospital with someone who can protect them from dangers. Do not depend on the sitters because they may go along or may not be able to stop the medical staff from giving drugs.The staff needs to give drugs to keep the staff comfortable. It is not for the patients comfort although they will say that.The staff do not have to tend to the patient if they are unconscious. Family just really have to know something about the medical field to protect not only the elder person but also any other family member that is in the hospital. Another thing that helped my mom was that she enjoyed regular daily hikes in the mountains and was in very good shape. She also did a work out everyday and took very good care of herself. Exercise and diet and taking good care of yourself are very important at any age.