According to studies, orthopaedic injuries are the leading cause of injuries in elderly people. Common injuries include fractures to the hip, pelvic, spine, shoulder and forearm, head injuries and soft tissue injuries. In the elderly especially, there has been an observed pattern to orthopaedic injuries. Firstly, it is the fear of injuries followed by the actual injury and subsequent medical attention and the eventual loss of mobility and the need for specialised care. Let’s discuss about some of the common orthopaedic injuries in the elderly so that we can all try to prevent it from happening to our loved ones at home.
As we live in an ageing society, the risk of injuries is at a higher scale compared to previously. In this day and time, 30% of those hospitalised are the elderly. Ageing causes the weakening of the musculoskeletal system and the inability to maintain an independent function.
Fractures happen more commonly in the elderly for many reasons. Firstly, there is a reduction in bone mineral which leads to eventual fractures of the spine and wrist. This is significantly in post-menopause females. Next, the vision of the elderly is not that great compared to the young and healthy ones. With an impaired vision, it is inevitable that unexpected events will occur. This coupled with weak bone structures are the best combination for fractures.
The shoulder joint is the most easily dislocated mainly due to the extreme flexibility property. This is also the increased risk of dislocation due to the breaking of a fall using a shoulder. Severe pain is often experienced immediately and a depression will usually be formed in the lateral shoulder. Shoulder dislocations will require a period of immobilisation for at least a period of 6 weeks.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterised by low bone mass and decreased bone density. It occurs due to the inability for new bone formation to catch up with existing bone loss and an eventual weakening of the bone. This is especially common in the elderly due to the inefficiency of bone forming due to ageing as our bone mass peaks at 30 years of age and starts to go into decline after that.
Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent type of degenerative disease and occurs more commonly in the elderly. Osteoarthritis affects the synovial joints as well as the spine, finger, ankle and knee joints. Osteoarthritis will have a negative impact on the daily activities of the patient and simple chores such as tying shoelaces or button a shirt may seem to be a tedious task to accomplish.
Orthopaedic injuries are the main culprit of injuries in elderly patients due to a combination of factors such as impaired vision which leads to falls and subsequent fractures and dislocations. Although degenerative diseases are mostly unavoidable, preventive steps can be taken when you are still young such as the intake of sufficient calcium before bone mass peaks to prevent complications when you are old. Stay happy and healthy folks!