NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fractures Prevented By Hip Protectors

December 6, 2000

Hip fractures are common in the elderly worldwide and are a major cause of disability, impairment and death. Attempts to reduce hip fractures have focused mainly on reducing the causes and risk factors -- such as weakness, gait disorders, functional impairment, visual impairment, cognitive impairment and the side effects of drugs, along with the presence of environmental hazards.

  • Each year more than 300,000 people 65 years and older are hospitalized as a result of hip fractures, and 25 percent of these patients die within one year because of the fracture or as a result of its complications.
  • Most survivors of a hip fracture have a substantially reduced ability to function in their daily activities.
  • A sizable minority of the survivors are living in long-term care facilities a year after the injury.

Several studies have reported dramatic reduction in the incidence of hip fractures using anatomically designed external hip protectors. These are lightweight shields worn on both sides at hip-joint height under the clothing. The greatest obstacle to the effectiveness of the device, say researchers, is the willingness of patients to wear them.

  • In 1993 clinical trials in 10 Danish nursing homes, the rate of hip fracture in ambulatory patients was 53 percent lower in the patient group that wore hip protectors compared to the control group after 11 months.
  • Importantly, in the group that was supplied with hip protectors, none of those patients who did have a hip fracture was wearing a hip protector at the time.
  • A 1997 study found that the risk of hip fracture can be reduced 80 percent through the continuous use of a hip protector; however, not all of the subjects were willing to wear the hip protectors.

Source: Kannus, Pekka, et al., "Prevention of Hip Fractures in Elderly People with the use of a Hip Protector," New England Journal of Medicine, November 23, 2000.


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