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