After former President Jimmy Carter’s broken hip, do you know your risk?
Former President Jimmy Carter’s recent surgery for a broken hip highlighted an all-too-common injury for elderly people that can have devastating consequences on health and mortality.
The 94-year-old Carter was turkey hunting when he tripped and fell, sustaining a fracture of the hip that required orthopedic surgery, according to news reports.
His story is not unlike many of the patients I treat. Everyone experiences the inevitable consequences of aging, and one of the most significant is thinning of bone that is the underlying cause of fragility fractures — those small or sometimes devastating fractures that occur with minimal trauma.
Like President Carter’s, many fragility fractures are breaks in the hip just below the hip joint. These are serious injuries that require patients to have surgery, a hospitalization and often an extended rehabilitation. The effect on your mobility and independence can be significant.
The National Bone Health Alliance estimates Americans suffer nearly two million fragility fractures each year. The breaks result from osteoporosis or “porous bone”.
Many people do not realize that bone is a living tissue made up of calcium and protein. Your bones undergo a constant process of remodeling, and when more bone calcium has absorbed than what has been replaced, the overall density of the bone suffers, and the bone becomes weaker. That raises the risk for a fracture.
President Carter’s injury illustrates that while osteoporosis often develops in women after menopause, it also occurs in elderly men. Fortunately, the rate of progression and effects can be modified with early diagnosis and treatment. A bone density scan is the gold standard for evaluating osteoporosis and risk for associated fractures. The scan is a non-invasive test that measures bone density in the vertebral spine and femur.
I recommend baseline testing at 50 for women with subsequent tests performed every three years. Men should also consider testing, particularly if they have risk factors for developing osteoporosis such as smoking, physical inactivity or use of oral steroids for other medical conditions. Talk to your primary doctor about what makes the most sense for you.
With May being National Osteoporosis Prevention Month, learn about local education and prevention opportunities you and your loved ones can get involved in. For example, our practice has a program designed to identify patients who have sustained a fragility injury so we can institute preventive measures and good patient education to potentially avoid future severe injuries. This has reduced patient disability, suffering and financial burden.
Do you have hip or knee pain? Take a free, quick online assessment to learn more by clicking here.
Dr. Gregory Caronis is a board-certified Lake County orthopedic surgeon with Advocate Medical Group Orthopedics and Chief of Surgery at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.
About the Author
Dr. Gregory Caronis is a board-certified Lake County surgeon with Advocate Medical Group Orthopedics and Advocate Condell Medical Center. A specialist in disorders of the foot and ankle and fracture care, Dr. Caronis sees patients in Gurnee, Lincolnshire and Libertyville.