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Take Heart, Seniors--You Can Recover from Leg Fractures

Posted on: 05/14/2001
Fractures to the legs and hips are one of the main reasons that people over 65 end up in the hospital. But not much is known about how these patients recover. This study followed 30 seniors who had leg fractures in accidents such as car crashes.

Researchers did physical tests of strength and range of motion and asked the subjects questions about their health, activities, and mental state. The subjects were tested an average of almost three years after their injuries.

The results showed that almost all of the patients had recovered very well. Their physical tests showed that the injured legs and uninjured legs functioned at about the same level. The subjects reported a low level of pain. And they even compared well to a control group of seniors who had never broken a bone in their legs.

One surprising difference between the subjects and the healthy control group was the results of the scores on mental state. Even though the subjects had returned to good function and low pain, they showed a much lower mental state. The authors don't know how to explain this. They note that the lowest scores came from people who had spent a long time in the hospital, and that two subjects were diagnosed with depression. Their responses may have caused a lower overall average score.

These results are somewhat different than other similar studies. The researchers suggest that it could be because their study limited subjects to people who had relatively simple fractures, without other major injuries. The good results could also be because the long follow-up time gave the patients a better chance to recover.

Whatever the case, it's good news for seniors who suffer a fracture. The results of this study suggest that patients fitting this description will likely get back to the activities they enjoy.

Brodie E. McKoy, MD, and Langdon A. Hartsock, MD. Physical Impairment and Functional Outcome in Patients Having Lower Extremity Fractures After Age 65. In Journal of the Southern Orthopedic Association. Fall 2000. Vol. 9. No. 3. Pp. 161-168.

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