Trends in Osteoporotic Fracture and Related in-Hospital Complications during the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta, Canada
Summary: Fragility fractures (i.e., low-energy fractures) account for most fractures among older Canadians and are associated with significant increases in morbidity and mortality. Study results suggest that low-energy fracture rates (associated with surgical intervention and outcomes) declined slightly, but largely remained stable in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Purpose/introduction: This study describes rates of low-energy fractures, time-to-surgery, complications, and deaths post-surgery in patients with fractures during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Alberta, Canada, compared to the three years prior.
Methods: A repeated cross-sectional study was conducted using provincial-level administrative health data. Outcomes were assessed in 3-month periods in the 3 years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic and in the first two 3-month periods after restrictions were implemented. Patterns of fracture- and hospital-related outcomes over the control years (2017–2019) and COVID-19 restrictions periods (2020) were calculated.
Results: Relative to the average from the control periods, there was a slight decrease in the absolute number of low-energy fractures (n = 4733 versus n = 4308) during the first COVID-19 period, followed by a slight rise in the second COVID-19 period (n = 4520 versus n = 4831). While the absolute number of patients with low-energy fractures receiving surgery within the same episode of care decreased slightly during the COVID-19 periods, the proportion receiving surgery and the proportion receiving surgery within 24 h of admission remained stable. Across all periods, hip fractures accounted for the majority of patients with low-energy fractures receiving surgery (range: 58.9–64.2%). Patients with complications following surgery and in-hospital deaths following fracture repair decreased slightly during the COVID-19 periods.
Conclusions: These results suggest that low-energy fracture rates, associated surgeries, and surgical outcomes declined slightly, but largely remained stable in the first few months of the pandemic. Further investigation is warranted to explore patterns during subsequent COVID-19 waves when the healthcare system experienced severe strain.