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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Hip surgery wait reduced in bid to lift survival rates

Every year, 19,000 Australians fracture their hip and one in four die within 12 months - statistics a health watchdog says are influenced by surgery delays.

Australians who sustain fractured hips, usually in a fall, are waiting longer than they should for surgery, with a health care watchdog warning this is seriously impacting survival rates.

Older Australians are more susceptible to the injury with most hip fractures happening to people age 65 or older. 

Every year, 19,000 people fracture their hip and one in four die within 12 months of the injury. 

With Australia's ageing population, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care said taking action was more important than ever.

On Monday, the commission will release updated clinical care standards for hospitals, reducing the maximum time frame for surgery after a hip fracture from 48 hours to 36.

This will bring Australia in line with international guidelines and, for the first time, the standards explicitly include patients who need to be transferred to a hospital that can perform the surgery.

The commission's acting Chief Medical Officer Carolyn Hullick said sobering statistics showed an Australian with a hip fracture was almost four times more likely to die within a year than someone of the same age who was not injured.  

"Anyone who has seen someone live through a hip fracture knows it's much more than a broken bone," she said.

"People with a hip fracture tend to be older, frail and more vulnerable, so it is critical the fracture is repaired quickly to reduce pain and get them on the road to recovery, back to independence.

"(Hip fractures) have an immense personal toll on individuals and families in addition to the burden on our health system of around $600 million each year." 

In 2022, the average time to surgery ranged from 16 to 92 hours, with the longest waiting times for people who needed to be transferred to a different hospital for surgery. 

Almost 80 per cent of patients had surgery within 48 hours.

Geriatrician Professor Jacqueline Close said the updated clinical standards would be a lever for change.

The adage "don't let the sun set twice before hip fracture repair" had merit for several reasons, she said.

"Firstly, no one wants to see their mum or dad fasting and in pain waiting for surgery, and shorter time to surgery is associated with fewer complications, better recovery and survival," she said.

"It is also more cost-efficient to manage these patients well. 

"Every day surgery is delayed, two days are added to the length of stay (and) the sooner you operate, the quicker patients can get walking and go home."


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