Patterns of underlying health issues linked to poorer outcomes after fractures in older adults

Having specific combinations of underlying health issues is a significant risk for poorer health outcomes in older adults who’ve had a fracture, a new study from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research shows.

The study was conducted on more than 300,000 Danish people aged 50 or older who had sustained a fracture. In patients with fractures closer to the centre of the body (for example, in the hip, spine, upper arm or leg), the researchers found a higher mortality rate than expected for the general population of the same age. If those people with fractures also had multiple or complex health conditions, the mortality risk was higher again.

The researchers found that certain clusters of conditions were associated with increased mortality rates, suggesting this information could be used by clinicians to highlight patients who may require more intensive medical care.

“This is an important study that could really change the way in which we provide medical treatment to older adults,” says Professor Jacqueline Center, Head of the Clinical Studies and Epidemiology lab and lead author of the study. “It can potentially be a new way of thinking about how we view people with fractures, considering the site of fracture in light of their specific underlying health conditions.”

The new study is published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Typically, management of health conditions like osteoporosis, heart disease or diabetes is considered in terms of the individual disease. However, these new findings suggest that looking at clusters of underlying conditions could indicate someone is at high risk of poorer outcomes, over and above the risk from the condition being treated.

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