BACKGROUND:undernourishment is common in elderly hip fracture patients and has been linked to poorer recovery and increased post-operative complications.
OBJECTIVE:to determine whether a nutritional supplement may (i) help elderly patients return to pre-fracturefunctional levels 6 months post-fracture and (ii) decrease fracture-related complications and mortality.
DESIGN:a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
SETTING:a county hospital near Barcelona.
SUBJECTS:171 patients, aged 70 and older, hospitalized for hip fracture between July 1994 and July 1996.
METHODS:we randomized patients to intervention (n = 85) or control (n = 86) group. Patients received anutritional supplement containing 20 g of protein and 800 mg of calcium or placebo for 60 days. We determined functional levels by the Barthel index, the mobility index and by the use of walking aids. We performed assessments during hospitalization and at 2 and 6 months post-fracture.
FINDINGS:the two groups were comparable at study entry. We observed no differences in return to functional status 6 months post-fracture (61% intervention group vs 55% in control group) nor in fracture-related mortality (13% in intervention group vs 10% in control group). The intervention group suffered fewer in-hospital [odds ratio 1.88 (95% CI 1.01 - 3.53), P = 0.05] and total complications [odds ratio 1.94 (95% CI 1.02-3.7), P = 0.04] than the control group.
CONCLUSION:based on our results, we cannot recommend routine nutritional supplementation of all elderly hip fracture patients. While nutritional supplementation may be useful in decreasing complications, this reduction does not result in improvement in functional recovery and nor does it decrease fracture-related mortality. Selectedpatients may, however, benefit from nutritional supplementation.