Hip operations put pressure on hospitals
By ELISABETH TACEY
THE number of hip breakages among elderly people has risen fivefold in the past 10 years - and 40 per cent of the patients die within the 12 months after the operation.
While the numbers for each age group in Hong Kong are lower than among Western people, they are catching up rapidly, orthopaedics specialists say.
Millions of dollars are spent on the operation to mend or replace the hip, with about 2,200 conducted last year.
And the drain on resources will worsen as the number of elderly grows and they live longer, doctors say.
The patients stay in hospital for an average of 35 days, compared with seven days for all patients, Hospital Authority figures show.
At least one hospital was putting 40 per cent of its resources into mending hips, the most commonly broken bone among old people, according to Professor Leung Kwok-sui of the Chinese University.
Swiss orthopaedic specialist Professor Reingold Ganz said the problem was growing worldwide as populations aged.
The doctors were speaking on the first day of the Western Pacific Orthopaedic Association's 1995 Congress at the Convention and Exhibition Centre.
'At least one in three of the patients are female,' partly because they live longer and because of osteoporosis - loss of calcium from the bones due to post-menopausal changes in hormone levels which only affects women, said Professor Leung.
'The costs are exponential as people become older,' said Professor Ganz.
Professor Leung said: 'About 40 per cent in Hong Kong die within their first year after the operation, and four per cent die while in hospital.' Osteoporosis could be partly offset by changes in diet and lifestyle, in particular avoiding alcohol, coffee and smoking, and exercising more, he said.
Studies had shown that Hong Kong women had only a third of the calcium in their bones compared with Western women of the same age, due to their diet - mostly the lack of dairy products, he said.