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Dehydration Slows Rehabilitation after Joint Replacement and Hip Fracture Surgery

Posted on: 11/30/1999
At least half of the adult human body is made up of water. This fluid is in every cell, between the cells, and inside the blood. Not having enough body water leads to dehydration. In older adults, dehydration is one of the most common reasons for going to the hospital.

According to this study, adults who have a hip or knee joint replacement are especially at risk for dehydration. So are adults with a hip fracture. Most patients in this study showed positive test results for dehydration. Notably, they also required twice as long to recover before going home.

Even before a health problem occurs, older adults are at risk of dehydration. This is because the body's ability to detect thirst reduces with age. Living alone and depression add to this problem. Diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure, or bladder infections also play a role in dehydration. Taking diuretics (water pills) for high blood pressure can get rid of too much fluid. This puts the heart patient at risk of dehydration.

Dehydration has physical and dollar costs. The authors of this study report that millions of dollars are spent every year as a result of dehydration. For example, it cost Medicare nearly 500 million dollars in 1991 for care related to fluid loss. Almost half of all patients on Medicare who are hospitalized with dehydration die within one year.

The authors point out the need to prevent dehydration in anyone having orthopedic surgery. As adults in the United States get older, more patients will be having joint replacements and hip fractures. Preventing dehydration will shorten hospital stays and reduce costs.

Jon A. Mukand, MD, PhD, et al. The Effects of Dehydration on Rehabilitation Outcomes of Elderly Orthopedic Patients. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. January 2003. Vol. 84. No. 1. Pp. 58-61.

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