Ireland facing an epidemic of broken hips over next 15 years, experts warn
Published 10/01/2010 | 05:00
Ireland is facing an epidemic of broken hips during the next decade, robbing thousands of elderly people of their independence and increasing the chances of early death.
The first study of this major injury here says the incidence of hip fractures will rise by 100 per cent between now and 2026 and urges health authorities to start planning now.
The new research comes as accident and emergency units around the country come under severe pressure because of falls associated with the cold snap.
John Hennessy, HSE's assistant national director for acute hospitals said: "Reports from a selection of hospitals suggest that fractures and sprains as a result of falls on the ice are among the most common injuries being seen at emergency departments.
"Many hospitals have increased the number of orthopaedic theatre sessions to deal with the increase in patients with fractures."
"From midnight on Christmas Day, the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick reported a total of 55 fractures in a 24-hour period, a figure they would normally see over the course of a week.
"Cork University Hospital was doing up to four times more orthopaedic theatre sessions on certain days over Christmas week than it would expect to do at that time of year," Mr Hennessy said.
The number of people attending University Hospital, Galway, with broken bones and fractures also rose sharply during the Christmas period.
In total, 110 people were admitted to the emergency department during the week leading up to Christmas, compared to 41 in the same period last year.
There were 15 hip fractures, and 50 wrist fractures, with operations continuing after midnight on Christmas Eve.
A doctor told the Sunday Independent that some hospital units have run low on pins, screws and plates used in the treatment of fractures.
But while the short-term crisis in accident and emergency units will lead to an increase in hip fracture figures this year, the long-term impact of hip fractures will provide an increasing burden on the health service.
Irish women are nearly three times more likely to suffer a break or fracture than men, according to the new study entitled 'Incidence of hip fracture in the Republic of Ireland and future projections' by M K Dodds, M B Codd, A Looney and K J Mulhall.
Hip fractures among the elderly are critical ailments, with possible life-endangering complications. Surgery to fix breaks is effective, but healing can take a full year.
The study found that the rates of fracture for those aged over 50 were 407 per 100,000 for the female population and 140 per 100,000 of men.
But based on estimates of a larger and ageing population, annual hip fracture figures are expected to increase by 100 per cent by 2026.
The study involved a scientific review of hospital records between 2000 and 2004, which found that 14,275 people sustained hip injuries -- an average of 2,855 a year.
But based on a projection of 1.86 million people aged over 50 in Ireland by 2026, the number of hip fractures will rise by 100 per cent.
The report includes a caveat that hip fracture rates may be levelling off because people are generally healthier, have greater body mass and an improved diet.