Simple evaluation and screening could catch a quarter of hip fractures before they happenSanta Rosa Orthopeadics surgeon Dr. Nathan Ehmer D.O., talks about the latest research on hip fractures, and the importance of prevention.

A new study published by The Lancet discovered that hip fractures may best be prevented in older adults through routine evaluations and bone density screening. This early detection process could help significantly reduce the occurrence of traumatic hip fractures in the more vulnerable elderly populations.

The research, which followed more than 12,000 women aged 70-85, found that screening helped to identify people at risk of suffering a fracture, which in turn allowed patients to be targeted for treatment. For those women who participate 28 percent saw a reduction in hip fractures over five years.

“Older patients who suffer a hip fracture are often overwhelmed by the injury,” explains Santa Rosa Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Nathan Ehmer who specializes in orthopaedic trauma, complex fracture care, pelvic and acetabular reconstruction, and total joint replacement. “If we can encourage both patients and their doctors to think about bone health as part of their overall healthcare strategy, perhaps we can prevent the more devastating consequences of hip fractures in the most vulnerable populations.”

Among those screened, treatment was recommended for one in seven women deemed at high risk of hip fracture. While screening did not reduce the incidence of all osteoporosis-related fractures, there was strong evidence for a reduction in hip fractures.

Who Gets Hip Fractures

Earlier studies in the U.S. on hip fracture suggested that by 2030 the number of people aged 65 and older will exceed 71 million – and over time, the total number of hip fractures will increase. The over- 85 age group (generally considered to be the most at-risk group) is the fastest growing segment of the older population. As with many health concerns, early prevention and lifestyle changes is the most important factor when it comes to reducing the risk of hip fractures.

As with the new study from the Lancet, among high-risk older men and women in the U.S. hip fracture prevention involves screening for osteoporosis and treatment for the at-risk group. This may include providing education about osteoporosis risk factors, emphasizing the importance of adequate dietary intake of supplements such as calcium and vitamin D and the value of weight bearing exercise. At risk groups also require access to affordable bone density screening and information on the implementation of effective fall prevention strategies.

“There are many ways older adults can enhance their lifestyles to prevent hip fractures and the sooner these changes are made, the better,” says Dr. Ehmer. “Even moderate exercise has been shown to slow bone loss and maintain muscle strength while improving balance and coordination. Balance and coordination are essential to avoiding falls, which is the number one cause of hip and bone fractures in older adults.” Balance training and Tai chi have both been shown to decrease falls and reduce the risk of hip fracture.

When a Hip Fracture Leads to Hip Replacement

Surgery is usually the best treatment for a broken or fractured hip. There are generally two types of surgery associated with hip fractures; hip repair and hip replacement.

  • Hip repair is undertaken by an orthopaedic surgeon to stabilize broken bones using surgical screws, nails, rods or plates. This type of surgery is reserved for situations where the bones can still be properly aligned.
  • Hip replacement surgery (arthroplasty) is just what it sounds like; surgery to replace part or all of the joint with artificial parts made of metal, ceramic, or plastic.

Hip replacement is one of the most successful contemporary surgical procedures. Refined surgical techniques, improved implant characteristics, aggressive physical rehabilitation and a focus on pain management have all contributed to this achievement. The long-term success rates for total hip and total knee surgery currently exceed 95 percent.

Hip replacement is also becoming more common among people age 45-50, and it is not always associated with a bone fracture. This age group now accounts for up to 95 percent of all procedures, a very significant increase over the previous decade. The majority of surgeries in this younger group are due to degenerative arthritis caused by wear-and-tear stemming from a more active lifestyle – making these patients more at risk for arthritis.

About SRO’s Orthopaedics

SRO surgeons and physical therapists care and pride themselves on getting patients back to the activities they love, helping re-establish independence and livelihood. In its efforts to bring the best outcomes to patients, SRO offers patients in-house diagnostic imaging, rehabilitation, sports injury prevention, as well as advanced surgical treatments in joint replacement, sports medicine, trauma care, hand, foot, ankle, and general orthopedic surgery. For more information about SRO, visit our website or call 707-546-1922.