WEDNESDAY, March 6, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Walking the dog can be great exercise for seniors, but there could be one downside: bone fractures.
Fractures suffered by elderly Americans while walking their dogs have more than doubled in recent years, new research shows.
Still, taking your dog for a walk can also bring big health rewards, one joint specialist said.
“Pets can provide companionship for older adults, and the physical exercise from regularly walking a dog may improve other aspects of physical and psychological health,” said Dr. Matthew Hepinstall, who wasn’t involved in the new study.
“So, the risks of walking a dog should be balanced against potential benefits,” said Hepinstall, who helps direct joint surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
The new research was led by Kevin Pirruccio, a second-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania. His team tracked national data and found that among people aged 65 and older, fractures associated with walking leashed dogs rose from about 1,700 cases in 2004 to almost 4,400 cases in 2017 — a 163 percent rise.
More than three-quarters of the fractures occurred in women, with hip and arm fractures being the most common. About half of all fractures occurred in the upper body, with fractures of the wrist, upper arm, finger and shoulder leading the way.
The most common type of fracture was a broken hip (17 percent). That’s cause for concern, Pirruccio’s team said, because the death rate linked to hip fractures in people older than 65 is close to 30 percent.
The researchers added that the study only involved data on fractures treated at emergency departments. The actual number of dog walking-related injuries among seniors might even be higher if injuries not typically seen in a hospital — for example, tendon or muscle tears — were factored in.
Why the rising rates of fractures tied to dog walking? The study authors theorized that increased pet ownership and a greater emphasis on physical activity for older adults may be driving the trend.
In a university news release, Pirruccio stressed that walking your pooch each day “has repeatedly demonstrated social, emotional and physical health benefits.” It’s also “a popular and frequently recommended activity for many older Americans seeking new ways to stay active,” he said.
On the other hand, “patients’ risks for falls must be factored into lifestyle recommendations in an effort to minimize such injuries,” Pirruccio said.
“The take-home message for older adults and their families is that, when choosing to care for a pet, be sure to consider the strength and coordination of the older adult, and the size and expected behavior of the pet selected,” he advised.
Pet ownership and care may need to be re-assessed with age, Hepinstall added.
“When the mobility of older adults changes, they should be encouraged to re-evaluate their ongoing ability to care for any pets,” he said. “This will help ensure that the health and other needs of the adult and of the pet can be properly managed.”
The study was published March 6 in JAMA Surgery.
The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases offers advice on preventing falls and fractures.
SOURCES: Matthew Hepinstall, M.D., associate director, joint preservation & reconstruction, department of orthopaedic surgery, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; University of Pennsylvania, news release, March 6, 2019
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Seniors with a fractured hip need surgery as soon as possible or they could suffer life-threatening complications, a new Canadian study concludes.
Having surgery within 24 hours decreases the risk of hip fracture-related death. It also lowers odds of problems such as pneumonia, heart attack and blocked arteries, the researchers found.
“We found that there appears to be a safe window, within the first 24 hours,” said lead researcher Daniel Pincus, a doctoral student with the University of Toronto.
“After 24 hours, risk began to clearly increase,” Pincus said.
U.S. and Canadian guidelines recommend hip fracture surgery within 48 hours of injury, but it’s likely that many people don’t receive care that quickly, he noted.
In the United Kingdom, guidelines call for surgery within 36 hours, but hospitals often fail to get patients promptly into the operating room, Pincus added. Rates range from 15 percent to 95 percent among U.K. hospitals, according to the report.
Oftentimes, there’s no operating room or surgeon available, or other patients are awaiting surgery, Pincus explained.
“There’s a triage system and these patients historically were not prioritized,” he said. “Sometimes there’s medical reason for the delay, but that’s very rare. We’re starting to realize there’s almost no reason why a patient should be delayed.”
Delay also likely occurs because doctors approach these elderly patients with a good deal of caution, said Dr. Harry Sax. He is executive vice chair of surgery for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“The perception is that if you’re old and you’ve broken your hip, that you’re going to have a lot of other [health problems],” said Sax, co-author of an editorial accompanying the new study. “Therefore, I need to spend several days running tests on you to try to make sure I can get you through the hip fracture surgery. ”
To see how this delay affects the health of patients, Pincus and his colleagues evaluated data on over 42,000 people treated for hip fracture at 72 hospitals in Ontario between April 2009 and March 2014. The patients’ average age was 80.
The investigators compared patients based on whether they had surgery before or after 24 hours.
Overall, about 12 percent of hip fracture patients died within the month following their surgery.
However, patients who got surgery within 24 hours were 21 percent less likely to die during the following month, compared with those who had a delay in surgery, the findings showed.
Those patients also had lower complication rates. They were 82 percent less likely to develop a blood clot in the leg veins (deep vein thrombosis); 61 percent less likely to have a heart attack; and 49 percent less likely to suffer a blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism). They were also 5 percent less likely to develop pneumonia during the month following surgery.
“The problem is the longer you sit in bed, the more likely you are to get pneumonia and blood clots. The unfixed bone is continuing to flick off little bits of fat, which can go to the lungs,” Sax said. “The delay doesn’t necessarily make things better. It could make things worse.”
People with an elderly relative facing hip fracture surgery should ask the health care team to get their loved one into surgery as soon as possible, with as little additional testing as possible, Pincus and Sax said.
“A prompt evaluation to make sure there’s nothing quickly correctable should be done, but otherwise the patient should move to the operating room as quickly as possible,” Sax said.
Families should ask doctors about every test, scan or screen that delays the surgery, Sax said.
“The question needs to be, what is the information that you’re going to gain and how would that change your management of this patient,” Sax said. “There are very few things you find with all this expensive testing that you can do anything about.”
The patient would be best off in a hospital that has a specific program to manage elderly people with hip fractures, Sax added. These programs have a team of surgeons, geriatricians, anesthesiologists and other professionals well-versed in the procedure.
“If you can find a hospital that does that, the chances are your outcomes are going to be better,” Sax said.
The study was published Nov. 28 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For more on hip fractures, visit the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
SOURCES: Daniel Pincus, doctoral student, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Harry Sax, M.D., executive vice chair, surgery, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles; Nov. 28, 2017, Journal of the American Medical Association
Icy winter weather may lead to fewer hip fractures than many believe.
Most fall-related hip fractures among elderly people in a New England study occurred in warm months and indoors — with throw rugs a common culprit.
“Given the results of this study, it appears that efforts to decrease fall risk among the elderly living in cold climates should not be preferentially aimed at preventing outdoor fractures in winter,” said study author Dr. Jason Guercio.
Instead, preventive efforts should focus on conditions present year-round, and especially on indoor risk, said Guercio. He’s with North American Partners in Anesthesiology at the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, Conn.
The researchers analyzed details about hip fractures suffered by 544 patients treated at the Hospital of Central Connecticut between 2013 and 2016.
More than 55 percent of the hip fractures occurred during warm months, with the highest rates in May, September and October (around 10 percent each). In addition, the investigators found that more than three-quarters of the hip fractures occurred indoors.
Moreover, 60 percent of outdoor fractures occurred from May through October, not in the depths of winter.
The most common cause of both indoor and outdoor hip fracture? Tripping over an obstacle. Indoors, throw rugs were the most common obstacle cited.
Falling out of bed was the second leading cause of indoor hip fractures.
Outdoors, the other leading causes of hip fractures were being struck by a vehicle or falling from a vehicle, followed by accidents on stairs.
The study was scheduled for presentation Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, in Boston.
“Falls are one of the most common health concerns facing the elderly today. And this population is the fastest growing segment of the U.S.,” Guercio said in a meeting news release.
“Falls leading to fracture can result in disability and even death. Understanding the risk factors for fractures can help to focus efforts on decreasing them, and guide resources and appropriate interventions to prevent them,” Guercio said.
“It is counterintuitive that the risk for hip fracture would be higher in warm months, as ice and snow would appear to be significant fall risks,” he added.
Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on hip fractures among older adults.
SOURCE: Anesthesiology annual meeting, news release, Oct. 23, 2017
Hip fractures are serious injuries, especially in seniors. Falls are a prime cause.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers this advice on reducing your risk:
- Keep your home clear of clutter, making sure it is well lit. Install grab bars in bathrooms.
- Get regular exercise to strengthen bones and muscles, and improve balance.
- Each year, get an eye exam and a complete physical.
- Discuss all medications with your doctor, as some drugs can have side effects.
- Know your risk factors for bone loss and fractures.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in vitamin D and calcium. If needed, talk to your doctor about medication to improve bone health.
- Maintain a healthy weight.