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30% Fewer Hip Fractures Reported After Elderly Cataract Surgery

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenAugust 28, 2012
Cataract Surgery and the Elderly

According to Jules Stein Eye Institute at University of California, many hip fractures can be prevented for those in their early 80 — if they have cataract surgery to improve their vision.

When someone is in their ‘autumn of life’ with only a handful of good years left, is it really worth it to put them through eye surgery? Well a recent study from the University of California, Los Angeles, points to ‘yes.’ According to Dr. Anne L. Coleman the study’s lead author and a professor of ophthalmology, “This is elective surgery, and sometimes people think, ‘I’m too sick to have my cataracts out,’ or ‘I’m too old,’ But the take-home message from this study is that if you’re starting to have vision problems and the doctor says you have cataracts, you should probably think of having them removed.”

The study supports earlier findings that there are many benefits to cataract surgery, a relatively safe outpatient procedure, that can significantly enhance elderly quality of life in the following ways:

  1. Improved sleep.
  2. Curved depression.
  3. Improved life engagement and mental alertness.

So how is this surgery associated with so many benefits to the elderly? Well, vision can do a lot for stimulation and satisfaction — not to mention — visual awareness. This visual adeptness helps prevent falls that can become more common with age, and when falls are reducedthe chance of hip fractures are reduced. And a hip fracture can mean the difference between a healthy senior and a senior who has to deal with surgery and other complications that may arise after a fall.

The Study: A Good Sampling

The new study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, examined the incidence of hip fractures within a year of cataract surgery in a random sample of 1.1 million Medicare beneficiaries, age 65 and older, who were given a cataract diagnosis from 2002 to 2009. The study compared hip fracture occurrences among 410,809 seniors who had surgery to remove cataracts with those seniors who had cataracts and elected to not have the surgery. Differences in age, race, sex, geographic location, cataract severity and other illnesses or physically limiting conditions were all factored into the study. The results? Those who had cataracts removed sustained 16 percent fewer hip fractures in the year after surgery than those who did not.

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It makes sense; seeing more clearly improves your depth perception and spatial awareness. According to Dr. Coleman, “Seeing helps you navigate a new environment and helps you with balance. You really need your eyes and vision to help you stay stable.”

The Population That Didn’t Benefit From the Cataract Surgery

Interestingly enough, though, the study found that the youngest patients, aged 65 to 69, actually experienced an increase in hip fractures. Researchers speculated that the youngest patients having cataract surgery may be very active people who had the surgery in only one eye, which could worsen problems with depth perception and balance, or may include people with serious neurological ailments. They said more study of this age group was needed.

What is Best for You or Your Loved One?

Cataract surgery has a really high success rate, but only you can decide what is best for you or your family member. The patients in the study who benefited the most were the very ill patients and those who had the most severe cataracts as these individuals noticed the most drastic improvements.

“Visual functioning helps in so many ways, whether it’s nighttime driving, participating in community activities or mental health” says Dr. Coleman. “People will tell you their life satisfaction is so much higher after cataract surgery.” Poor vision “affects your self-confidence so much,” she added.

Here is more information on hip fractures and the elderly. Discussing with a physician the best plan of action for you or your loved one can also help inform you of the benefits and risks associated with cataract surgery.

Have you or a loved one had cataract surgery? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience/s in the comments section below!

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Dana Larsen
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Dana Larsen

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