Study: Improved Vision After Cataract Surgery Lowers Risk of Broken Hips

Hip fractures are a significant risk for the elderly, often forcing a victim into a wheelchair and even a nursing home. A new study has found that the elderly who have eye surgery to remove cataracts and improve their vision also significantly reduce their risk of breaking a hip in a fall.

The study reports that the sickest among older people and those in their early 80s experience nearly 30 percent fewer hip fractures in the first year following cataract surgery.

A relatively safe outpatient procedure with a high success rate, cataract surgery may greatly enhance the quality of life among the elderly, improving sleep, enabling them to be more engaged and mentally alert and curbing depression.

The study was reported in The New York Times.
“This is elective surgery, and sometimes people think, ‘I’m too sick to have my cataracts out,’ or ‘I’m too old,’ ” said Dr. Anne L. Coleman, the study’s lead author and a professor of ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If you’re starting to have vision problems and the doctor says you have cataracts, you should probably think of having them removed.”

The new study, published on Tuesday 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. All had a cataract diagnosis from 2002 to 2009.

The study compared the incidence of hip fracture among 410,809 patients who had surgery to remove the cataracts during the study period with the incidence among those who did not, adjusting for differences in age, race, sex, place of residence, cataract severity and other illnesses and physically limiting conditions.

Some 13,976 of the patients sustained hip fractures during a year.

Those who had cataracts removed sustained 16 percent fewer hip fractures in the year after surgery than those who did not, the study found.

Older patients and those who were very ill benefited tremendously. Patients ages 80 to 84 experienced the most significant benefit, with 28 percent fewer hip fractures. Those who had many other illnesses and chronic conditions, like heart disease, were 26 to 28 percent less likely to experience a fracture than sick patients who did not have the cataracts removed, the study found.

And those who had severe cataracts removed experienced 23 percent fewer hip fractures than those who had severe cataracts but did not have surgery.

“Seeing helps you navigate a new environment and helps with balance,” Dr. Coleman said. “You really need your eyes and vision to help you stay stable.”

Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, an assistant professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University who was not involved in the research, called the findings “exciting” and said they underscore the critical role that vision plays in quality of life and healthy aging.

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

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling elderly issues and nursing home abuse cases for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Alsip, Merionette Park, Blue Island, Calumet Park, Chicago (Morgan Park), Chicago (Washington Heights), Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Deerfield, Bensenville, Rosemont and Chicago (Lincoln Square), Illinois.

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