Half of Americans Break a Bone by Age 65

Once Past 65, Most Don't Fully Get Over Broken Hip

Feb. 5, 2003 -- Every 14 seconds, someone in the U.S. needs an orthopaedic surgeon. Half of all Americans will break a bone by the time they're 65.

The findings come from a report at this week's annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Mark R. Brinker, MD, of Houston's Texas Orthopedic Hospital, led a study of 135,000 U.S. families. They saw lots of broken bones. Their findings:

  • Kids 10-14 years old broke a lot of bones. Their fracture rate is about the same as that of people over 65.
  • Among the 10-14-year-olds, one in 37 boys and 1 in 62 girls needed a doctor's help for a broken bone.
  • From birth to age 65, men had 30% more broken bones than women.
  • In the over-45 age group, women had more bone breaks than men. This appears due to higher rates of osteoporosis -- bone loss -- in women.
  • Half of all broken bones meant surgery and hospital care. Costs were more than $10 billion per year.

Another conference report noted that a broken hip has long-term effects on most seniors' life quality.

Kenneth J. Koval, MD, director of the orthopaedic trauma service at NYU School of Medicine, led a study of hip-surgery patients over 65 years old. Before breaking a hip, all of the patients were in good health, were able to walk on their own, and had good mental function.

A year after surgery to repair a broken hip:

  • 13% of the seniors died.
  • Only 41% of the seniors were able to get around as well as they did before.
  • About 75% of the seniors were able to perform basic activities such as bathing, eating, dressing, and going to the toilet. Those most likely to recover these functions were younger than 85 and lived with another person.
  • About half of seniors were able to perform more complex tasks such as making shopping lists, shopping, cooking, and doing housework. Those most likely to recover these functions were younger than 85.

"Ongoing education about the serious consequences of a fall provides seniors with an opportunity to take preventive action now, and maintain health and independence for years to come," Koval says in a news release.

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SOURCES: News release, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) • AAOS web site.
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