For osteoporosis sufferers, those with low Bone Mineral Density, but primarily the frail and elderly, falling on the hip and breaking the femur results in one of the most expensive operations undertaken by the NHS, with a typical stay in hospital of over 20 days. Often, a further period in a nursing home is required for the patient to recover, and in a significant minority of cases the consequences can be even more tragic. But even if the patient does make a full recovery, mobility is usually reduced and a 'fear of falling' often impairs the quality of their life.
Numerous studies have established that the current generation of hip protectors are unsatisfactory, mostly because they are too uncomfortable to wear for any length of time, especially at night, when many accidents occur.
Nearly 75% of all hip fractures occur in women1 and about 25% of hip fractures in people over 50 occurs in men2. Hip fractures are invariably associated with chronic pain, reduced mobility, disability, and an increasing degree of dependence3. After sustaining a hip fracture 10-20% of formerly community dwelling patients require long term nursing care4, 5, 6, with the rate of nursing home admission rising with age5, 7. A 50 year-old woman has a 2.8% risk of death related to hip fracture during her remaining lifetime, equivalent to her risk of death from breast cancer and 4 times higher than that from endometrial cancer8. Approximately 1.6 million hip fractures occur worldwide each year; by 2050 this number could reach between 4.5 million9 and 6.3 million2. 5-10% of patients experience a recurrent hip fracture10, 11, with the mean interval between the first and second fracture being 3.3 years11. Hip fractures cause the most morbidity with reported mortality rates up to 20-24% in the first year after a hip fracture12, 13, and greater risk of dying may persist for at least 5 years afterwards14. Loss of function and independence among survivors is profound, with 40% unable to walk independently, 60% requiring assistance a year later15. Because of these losses, 33% are totally dependent or in a nursing home in the year following a hip fracture13, 16, 17. Hip fractures account for a larger proportion of all fracture expenditures in men than women (73% vs. 61%). Overall, 23% of hip fracture expenditure occurs in men18.
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