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Fast-track treatment for hip fractures: WSJ story needed some figures to back up the claims

Rating

3 Star

Hospitals Fast-Track Treatments for Hip Fractures

Our Review Summary

elderly falling in bathroom because slippery surfacesThis is a feature story about the potential benefits in treating hip fractures as a critical emergency, and providing “fast-track” access to surgery to improve outcomes. As the story indicates, limited research so far shows that waiting more than a day or so leads to a higher risk of complications and death.

This story covered a lot of the basics, giving readers an overview of where the research stands, and why doctors hypothesize this method is better. That said, it could have emphasized that surgery is still surgery, and while this approach may reduce complications, there are still risks. More also was needed on the measured benefits and general availability of this option.

 

Why This Matters

Among older adults, hip fractures are common and have a big impact on quality of life. For readers at risk of a hip fracture, or who have loved ones at risk, this story is likely to be of high interest, and it’s important they come away fully informed–even if things like costs and harms may be less than standard slower treatment, they should not be overlooked altogether.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not discuss costs, and this is an important oversight considering how expensive inpatient surgery is. Presumably this fast-track surgery is less expensive since it reduces time spent in the hospital, but we’re not giving any specifics.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story doesn’t get into the measured specifics. We’re told delayed surgery creates a  “significantly higher overall complication rate. And surgery two days and three or more days after admission was associated with higher rates of death.” But without actual numbers, it’s unclear how significant these rates are.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There are no harms discussed in the story. We can presume that faster surgery is safer, but whether hip repair is done rapidly or after three days, all surgical patients are at risk of harm, and so the risks should be discussed.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

The story provides a good overview of the evidence, letting us know that fast-track hip surgery has been studied on a pilot basis, and is now being studied in a new large international clinical trial to help clarify how beneficial it is.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

There is no disease mongering here.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

The story quotes two experts involved with research, but also one more who appears independent of it, as well as a patient. There also appear to be no notable conflicts of interest.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

This story is a comparison of alternatives, comparing established methods with newer methods.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

It’s not clear how widely available this fast-track surgery option is in general, but this is something you’d want to know if you were a patient/caregiver trying to find some place that offers this.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The story calls this a new approach, but in reality “fast-track” surgery has been used in many institutions for a long time (but it has not been standardized across the country).

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

It does not appear that there was a news release on this topic that instigated the story.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory

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