OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Matthew Herring, MD, in response to a recent study in the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma.
Fractures in the elderly are a growing problem in developed countries and generally carry a significant morbidity and mortality burden. When considering treatment strategies and making prognoses in this patient population, our ability to stratify patient frailty may be just as or more important than classifying the fracture. In a recent study in the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma, Mitchell et al. evaluate the role of sarcopenia, an age-related loss of muscle mass, in predicting 1-year mortality among elderly patients with acetabular fractures.1
The authors performed a retrospective review of nearly 150 patients >60 years of age who sustained an acetabular fracture between 2003 and 2014. The authors used the lowest quartile of the psoas:lumbar vertebral index (PLVI) in the cohort as a surrogate for sarcopenia. The PLVI is calculated by measuring the cross-sectional area of the psoas muscle bellies at the L4 level and dividing that number by the cross-sectional area of the L4 vertebral body measured at the superior endplate (see image). Lower PLVIs represent greater loss of muscle mass.
After controlling for confounding variables, the authors found that sarcopenia was an independent risk factor for 1-year mortality. Specifically, patients with sarcopenia had a 32.4% 1-year mortality rate compared to a rate of 11.0% in patients without sarcopenia. Age and injury severity score (ISS) were also predictive of 1-year mortality, and patients with all 3 factors (age >75 years, ISS >14, and sarcopenia) had a mortality rate of 90%.
This article highlights the importance of risk-stratifying patients in ways that account for more than their presenting injuries. In the elderly population, chronologic age is only one of many indicators of frailty. Sarcopenia may be another marker that we can use to better understand the general well-being of our patients. As Mitchell et al. mention, more research must be done to precisely define a PLVI cutoff for sarcopenia to make this index a clinically useful tool. Ultimately, doing so will allow us to offer elderly patients and their families more thoughtful and evidence-based counseling regarding treatment and prognosis.
Matthew Herring, MD is a senior orthopaedic resident at the University of Minnesota and a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
- Mitchell, Phillip M., et al., Sarcopenia is Predictive of 1-year Mortality After Acetabular Fractures in Elderly Patients.” Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma, June 2018; 32 (6) : 278-282.