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Don't be in such a hurry to leave the hospital

Feb 25, 2015 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Scary research released last week by the British Medical Journal claims that there is a higher risk of death linked to hospital stays of less than 10 days.  

The study claims older patients are more likely to die following a short hospital stay for a hip fracture. A team of researchers, led by Peter Nordström at Umeå University, Sweden, examined the effect of the length of stay in a hospital on the risk of death following a hip fracture among older persons.

They looked at 116,111 Swedish residents, aged 50 years and over, who had been admitted to a hospital with a hip fracture between 2006 and 2012. Length of hospital stay and deaths during and after hospital admission were analyzed. Other factors were accounted for including health conditions, medications, socioeconomic status, type of hip fracture, and surgery.

Results showed that the average length of stay in hospital decreased from 14.2 days in 2006 to 11.6 days in 2012. Patients had an average age of 82.2 years. Patients who stayed in hospital for up to 5 days had twice the risk of death compared with patients staying 15 days or more.

Hip fractures in the elderly are a major cause of disability and are associated with an increased risk of death. The growth of the elderly population along with rising healthcare costs has placed considerable strain on hospitals. Consequently hospital bed shortages are now common across Europe and length of stay in hospitals has generally decreased. Previous research has shown mixed results on patient outcomes of shorter length of hospital stay.

This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. But a shorter hospital stay may reduce opportunities for rehabilitation to get patients back on their feet, for example, and may limit access to medical staff, further assessment, and appropriate care, explain the authors.

--Sarah Hagerty
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