Prevention of Perioperative Complications
The principles of geriatric medicine should be applied to the care of elderly patients with hip fractures. Emphasis should be placed on early recognition of treatable conditions and avoidance of iatrogenesis. Careful assessment of medical problems, social support, and functional status within an interdisciplinary framework is recommended. Such a multi-faceted approach has been shown to reduce overall complications in hip fracture patients.10 Specific complications are discussed in more detail below.
Delirium. Delirium is the most common complication after hip fracture surgery, with a prevalence of 35%-65%.7 Proper pain control, minimization of polypharmacy, removal of tethers, and frequent reorientation are among the many preventive measures that should be implemented.
Venous thromboembolism (VTE). VTE is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality for hip fracture patients.11 Without prophylaxis, about 1.8% will develop symptomatic deep venous thromboses, and 1% will develop symptomatic pulmonary emboli in the first seven to 14 days after surgery. An estimated 4.3% will develop symptomatic VTE in the first 35 days after surgery.
The American College of Chest Physicians recommends that patients undergoing hip fracture surgery receive VTE prophylaxis for a minimum of 10-14 days postoperatively.11 Extending prophylaxis out to 35 days is reasonable. Low molecular-weight heparin is preferred over low-dose unfractionated heparin, fondaparinux, warfarin, and aspirin. Patients should receive preoperative VTE prophylaxis if surgery is delayed.
Postoperative infections. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common infectious complication after hip fracture surgery.7 If not caught early, they can result in urosepsis, prosthetic joint infections, and death. After the first 48 hours of urinary catheterization, the risk of a UTI is 5%-10% per day.12
Therefore, catheters should be removed within 24-48 hours of surgery.
Acute blood loss anemia. Anemia is common in hip fracture patients. It may be present on admission or develop as a result of intraoperative blood loss, ongoing drain output, or fluid resuscitation.
The recent FOCUS trial, which helped to clarify the optimal transfusion threshold for patients after hip fracture surgery, compared a liberal versus restrictive transfusion strategy in patients with cardiovascular disease.13 Transfusing for a hemoglobin < 10 g/dL, as opposed to transfusing for symptoms or a hemoglobin < 8 g/dL, did not improve mortality, in-hospital morbidity (including myocardial infarction), or functional status at 60 days.
Pressure ulcers. Patients with hip fractures are at risk of developing decubitus ulcers. One study found the incidence of new pressure ulcers to be 16% at seven days and 36% at 32 days after initial hospitalization.14 Multicomponent interventions have been shown to successfully reduce the rate of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers.15
Medical Management of Osteoporosis
The World Heath Organization defines osteoporosis as a bone mineral density of at least 2.5 standard deviations below that of a “normal” young adult as measured on DEXA scan, or a T-score ≤ -2.5.16 However, it is important to recognize that bone strength depends not only on the quantity of bone but also on the quality. Any patient who sustains a hip fracture with minimal trauma (e.g. a fall from standing height) should be considered to have osteoporosis, regardless of T-score.