General Question

2davidc8's avatar

Why are hip fractures in seniors so frequently deadly?

Asked by 2davidc8 (7775points) 1 month ago

I mean, I know of older people who get hip replacements and they seem to do fine. I know an older lady who’s had both hips AND both knees replaced, and these have not deterred her from going backpacking in the mountains of Argentina!
Yet, a surprisingly high percentage of hip fractures are said to lead to death in seniors.
So, what’s so different about recovery from a hip fracture vs. recovery from a hip replacement operation?

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8 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

Consider the totality of the person.

Someone whose health has deteriorated to the point where their bones are so thinned and brittle that they are susceptible to hip fracture has probably deteriorated in general health overall… and may not be receiving regular or competent care in any case. So if they don’t have a physician to recommend a hip replacement, or the constitution to support that major surgery, or the physiology to go through the recovery and rehab afterward… then there are any number of strikes against them.

On the other hand, a hip replacement generally indicates (at least as far as this non-physician knows) that it’s “a joint problem” more than an overall skeletal deterioration. So fixing that joint with a replacement can give added mobility and vitality. But if those things aren’t part of the person’s makeup in the first place, then… not so much.

Finally, my understanding is that hip fractures generally precede (by seconds) a likely secondary injury that may be fatal in itself. That is, if a person is walking or on stairs and the hip gives way, then there could be an immediate fall that breaks more bones or causes concussion or worse.

Finally, someone whose hip has broken is going to be bedridden and that also leads to more complications and general weakening of the entire body.

zenvelo's avatar

Broken hips (and other broken bones) can cause internal hemorrhaging, and attendant drop in blood pressure. The bleeding can also cause a blood clot that can travel and cause problems elsewhere.

The surgery to repair a broken hip can be traumatic, especially for an elderly patient without good physical health. And rehabilitation usually takes a full year get back to the same level of motion as before the fracture.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Reduced mobility means a sink hole of problems.
Blood clots, weight gain, missed meals, and those problems lead to other problems.

This is regarding patients who actually survive the potential afflictions already mentioned.

chyna's avatar

Unfortunately, most people in my hospital that have had hip, knee, etc., replacements are grossly obese. They have a hard time taking care of themselves because of their weight and a lot of them get infections.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The old body can’t handle the stress.

Aster's avatar

I appreciate this question because my husband fell and broke his hip ten months ago and he has not been the same since. I think the surgery caused one leg to be shorter than the other so he limps and the leg is quite weak. It is very risky for him to walk on grass or climb stairs. Having type 2 diabetes also made it worse for him. He almost died in the hospital but pulled through after being in ICU almost everyday. When he got home he had some physical therapy, got better for a month or two but is now very sedentary and sleeps quite a bit. At least his mind is sharp as a tack. He could be on Jeopardy and do well. It is so stressful you can’t imagine.

2davidc8's avatar

So sorry to hear that, @Aster. I hope you find resources (whether in church, community support groups, counselors, etc.) that will help you and your husband pull through. Some members of my family and I are going through something similar. {{Hugs}}

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