The admission rate for hip fractures, a common fall injury among the elderly that is associated with a high mortality rate, has decreased despite the rapid increase of the elderly population in the nation, National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) said yesterday. The hospital added that this is a sign of successful osteoporosis prevention.
Taiwan is among the countries with high hip fracture risk, with 196 annual incidences of hip fractures per 100,000 men and 392 per 100,000 women.
Both are higher than the thresholds — 150 per 100,000 and 300 per 100,000 respectively — designated by Osteoporosis International for high-risk countries.
“Taiwan’s population has been aging rapidly in the past 10 years, with people aged 50 and over increasing one-and-a-half times. With it, the total number of patients hospitalized because of bone fractures has also increased,” said Tsai Keh-sung (蔡克嵩), superintendent of NTUH Bei-Hu Branch.
However, according to a study conducted by the hospital, the admission rate for hip fractures among those aged 65 and above has been decreasing over the 12-year time span from 1999 to 2010, at an annual rate of 2.7 percent.
Chan Ding-cheng (詹鼎正), attending physician of geriatric medicine, said possible contributing factors in the decrease include the use of osteoporosis medications; education and activities promoted since 1997 by the Taiwanese Osteoporosis Association, healthcare providers and the Health Promotion Administration; a reduction in smoking; and the uptick in calcium and vitamin D intake.
“It’s also possible that the increase in the rate of obesity among Taiwanese has contributed to the lowering of the fracture rate, as studies have shown that people with a body mass index lower than 18.5 are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis and bone fractures,” Chan said.
However, it is not true that overweight or obese people are less likely to suffer from the injury than people within the normal weight range, Tsai said.
“The danger of osteoporosis has been underestimated,” said Yang Rong-sen (楊榮森), professor of orthopedics at NTUH.
“The one-year postoperative mortality rate for geriatric hip fracture patients is as high as 22 percent in men and 15 percent in women in Taiwan, with the rate being around the same at 20 to 24 percent worldwide,” he said.
“The rate is much higher than some of the cancers against which people generally take more precautions,” Yang said.
He added adding that the risk of a serious fracture increases after a first fracture, so the elderly should pay more attention to their bone health and try to prevent a first fracture.