Hip airbag appears to be effective for the elderly: significantly fewer hip and pelvic fractures after a fall

Cloud hip airbag

The Wolk hip airbag was invented in 2012 by Hans Schröder. His idea was further developed in the following years in collaboration with Delft University of Technology. The aid is now used in 60 healthcare institutions.

Effect studied in 900 elderly people

Banne Nemeth, orthopedic surgeon in training and researcher at the LUMC, has investigated the effect of using 45 hip airbags on more than 900 elderly people who received long-term care between 2017 and 2020 at Aunt Louise’s institution. It turns out that the number of hip and pelvic fractures after a sideways fall has decreased by almost half since the use of the hip airbags. After the investigation, Aunt Louise further scaled up the use of the hip airbag within the organization.

Airbag absorbs the blow

The hip airbags are mainly used within the healthcare institution for residents who have a high risk of falling. It is part of a broad approach aimed at preventing falls and their consequences. The elderly can wear the device under their clothing. The airbag contains six sensors that monitor the wearer’s every movement. In the event of a fall, it is therefore possible to measure exactly when and how hard someone hits the ground. Just before the moment of impact, a small air cushion is inflated that absorbs the impact. A signal is also automatically sent to the healthcare provider.

side fall

Nemeth first heard about the hip airbag in 2019. “I read that the device was supposed to prevent 60 to 70 percent of all hip fractures after a sideways fall in the elderly, these are impressive figures. I therefore contacted the supplier and asked whether we could also independently investigate the efficiency of the hip airbag in practice. The publication of this pilot study is the first result of this.”

Far fewer fractures

During the study, Nemeth looked at anonymized electronic client data made available by Aunt Louise healthcare facility. “In the study, we compared the number of falls and hip or pelvic fractures in the elderly. We then compared this data over different periods, both before and after the deployment of the hip airbags,” he explains.

Decrease in fractures by 45 percent

Since the application of the aid, the number of hip and pelvic fractures among the elderly population studied has decreased by 45 percent. In contrast, there is only a 12 percent decrease in the number of falls in the same period. Nemeth: “These results may indicate that wearing a hip airbag reduces the risk of hip or pelvic fractures in the elderly – who are in institutions for long-term care. We would like to confirm this statement in a clinical follow-up study in the near future.”

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