Researchers calculate the cost of osteoporosis-related hip fractures among elderly care residents

While the number of osteoporosis-related fractures that occur in a year is relatively well known, the direct cost of these injuries is rarely quantified, which is why a group of UK scientists recently attempted to do just that.

Researchers associated with the Nottingham University Hospitals and University Hospitals of Leicester released a report in the journal Osteoporosis International (OI) stating that the average direct cost of a hip fracture sustained by an elderly person living in a retirement home was 9,429 British pounds, the equivalent of more than $15,300.

The team determined that this figure increased to approximately $23,300 if a patient ultimately had to be transferred from residential or in-home care to a nursing home.

How did they calculate these costs? Rather than addressing secondary spending, which is difficult to pin down and can include everything from physical rehabilitation and prescription medications to diagnostic tests for osteoporosis, the team stuck to "direct" hospitalization costs.

They defined these as the cost per hour of operating theater time, plus fees for surgical instruments, blood tests and hospital beds.

The study sample consisted of 100 people with an average age of 85. In all, 42 individuals were admitted to a nursing care facility after suffering an osteoporotic broken hip.

Researchers noted that other than nursing home admission, the primary cost-driving factor was the number of nights that a patient spent in the hospital. The study's authors concluded that health interventions that decrease the length of hospital stays could dramatically cut costs for elderly hip fracture patients with progressive bone loss.

In the U.S., osteoporosis-related fractures account for more than $19 billion in healthcare spending, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).

The organization also emphasizes that osteoporosis costs lives. Among Americans age 50 or older, 24 percent of those who suffer a hip fracture will die within one year, the NOF estimates.

In the OI study, 17 individuals died within a month of breaking a hip.