This week I finally learned why hip fractures lead to death in many elderly people. I had heard that when older people fracture their hip, that they have a low prognosis rate (i.e. chances of fully recovering are slim). In some cases, death may be around the corner.
This boggled my mind for quite some time: why on Earth do hip fractures kill people?! I couldn't see the connection. Thankfully I now have the answer.
There are two main reasons for this connection: 1) LEAN MASS ATROPHY and 2) NOSOCOMIAL INFECTIONS.
1) When you are bed-ridden or hospitalized for an extended period of time, your muscles lose their mass. The undergo atropy and shrink in size. When we don't use a muscle (you wouldn't use your leg muscles and abdominal muscles if you break your hip because you can't walk and must lie in a bed until the fracture is healed). However, once you are able to start moving again, your muscles will build back up again... but only if you are young and able. When an old person is bed-ridden, their muscles will break down, and unfortunately due to their older and weaker state, they can't build them back up when they are able to move around again. Moreover, a decrease in lean muscle mass correlates with a decrease vitality. So, the more lean body mass you lose, the weaker your body becomes overall. In short, it is really hard for older people to heal from a hip fracture because they lose a lot of lean muscle mass in the process, and this loss weakens the body overall.
2) When you fracture your hip, you are hospitalized. You have to be bed-ridden, confined to a hospital bed, and are cared for by hospital staff and nurses. The problem lies in the hospital. Anybody staying in hospitals with weak immune systems (as in the elderly), has a high risk of acquiring a nosocomial infection (i.e. a hospital-acquired infection). In short, hip fractures put older people into hospitals and there they are more likely to die of complications from a hospital-acquired infection due to their weak immune systems.
And now you know too! It's not due to the hip per-say, but the circumstances surrounding a hip fracture.