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 Saturday, 11 January, 2003, 00:00 GMT
Padded pants 'cut elderly fractures'
Hip fractures cost the NHS around 1bn annually
Elderly people at risk of falling and fracturing their hips should be prescribed padded pants, a study suggests.

Researchers in Germany say specially designed pants can reduce fractures by as much as 40%.

The pants or hip protectors have a hard polypropylene case on each side. They protect the hips in the event of a fall, diverting any impact away from the bone.

This could help to save a lot of money - we are going to present our cost effective analysis soon

Gabriele Meyer, Researcher
Doctors say the pants, which cost in the region of 50 each, could save health services millions of pounds each year through reduced hospital admissions.

Professor Ingrid Muehlhauser and colleagues at the University of Hamburg enrolled almost 1,000 elderly people living in 42 nursing homes in the city in their study.

Comparison

Half of these were given free hip protectors and were trained in how to use them.

The other half were not given the padded pants and received the same nursing home care as normal.

Fourteen months later the researchers compared the number of hip fractures in each group.

They found that just 21 residents who had been given padded pants had suffered a hip fracture. This represented 4.6% of those in the first group.

In comparison, 39 residents in the second group who did not receive hip protectors suffered fractures. This represented 8.1% of those in the group.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the researchers said the results showed that padded pants could help to reduce fractures among the elderly.

They suggested that doctors should provide "hip protectors on prescription for elderly people at high risk of hip fracture".

Savings

Gabriele Meyer, one of those involved in the study, said the research team was trying to calculate how much healthcare systems could save if they provided hip protectors free to elderly people at risk of falling.

"This could help to save a lot of money. We are going to present our cost effective analysis soon," she told BBC News Online.

Osteoporosis-related hip fractures are estimated to cost the NHS in the region of 1bn and take up more than one million bed days a year.

One in five women who suffers a hip fracture survives for less than six months.

Doctors at the University of York are also carrying out a study on more than 4,500 volunteers to see if hip protectors can reduce fractures.

See also:

14 Jun 00 | Health
01 Feb 01 | Health
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