Falls Most Likely Right After Replacement Surgery

Total hip and knee arthroplasty patients were found most likely to fall within the first month after surgery

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) For elderly patients who get a hip or knee replacement, falls may be most likely to occur right after surgery.

A recent study found that in a group of patients who had total hip and knee replacement surgery, most falls happened within the first month after the surgery was performed.

The study authors noted that doctors and patients should be mindful of this period during the recovery process.

"Take it easy after having hip or knee replacement surgery."

This study was led by Christoffer C. Jørgensen in the Section for Surgical Pathophysiology, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University in Denmark. The research team looked at the number of falls requiring hospital admission in a group of elderly patients who received fast-track total hip or knee arthroplasty.

Total hip or knee arthroplasty (also known as a total hip or knee replacement) are surgical procedures where the hip and knee are replaced with artificial joints. Fast-track refers to speeding up the recovery process so patients are able to get up and move around in a shorter amount of time after having the surgery.

Data was analyzed from 5,145 total hip and knee arthroplasty patients in the Danish National Patient Registry. Study participants were followed for 90 days after having surgery.

Falls were separated based on the type of injury that resulted from the fall, including: no injury, minor injury (e.g. minor cuts and swelling), moderate injury (e.g. temporary loss of consciousness), or severe injury (e.g. injury requiring additional surgery, cardiac arrest, or death).

Falls were also separated based on what the falls were related to, including: surgery-related falls (e.g, falls due to sudden muscle weakness), falls due to difficult physical activity (e.g. climbing a ladder or intense exercise), and falls related to external factors (e.g. slippery surface or being drunk).

Several factors were taken into account that could have influenced the chance of falling including: age, gender, use of walking aid, body mass index (a measure of height and weight), and presence of other conditions.

In their study sample, 83 participants experienced a fall which was less than 2 percent of the total sample. Falls were most likely to occur within the first month after being released from the hospital, with about 24 percent of falls happening in the first week and about 52 percent of falls happening in the first month after surgery. Researchers found that about 51 percent of these falls involved major injuries. The researchers also found that about 25 percent of all falls were unrelated to surgery.

The study authors noted that while falls are uncommon in hip and knee replacement patients, if a fall will occur, it is most likely to happen within the first month after having surgery. They concluded that physicians and patients should focus on this period during the patient’s rehabilitation.

This study was published on November 26 in Clinical Interventions in Aging.

The study authors reported no competing interests.

Review Date: 
November 29, 2013
Last Updated:
December 2, 2013