- Research article
- Open Access
- Open Peer Review
Associations between post-operative rehabilitation of hip fracture and outcomes: national database analysis
© The Author(s). 2018
- Received: 6 June 2017
- Accepted: 15 May 2018
- Published: 9 July 2018
The Correction to this article has been published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2018 19:340
Rehabilitation programmes are used to improve hip fracture outcomes. There is little published trial clinical trial or population-based data on the effects of the type or provider of rehabilitation treatments on hip fracture outcomes. We evaluated the associations of rehabilitation interventions with post-operative hip fracture outcomes.
Cross-sectional (2013–2015) analysis of data from the English National Hip Fracture Database (NHFD) from all 191 English hospitals treating hip fractures. Of 62,844 NHFD patients, we included 17,708 patients with rehabilitation treatment and 30-day mobility data, and 34,142 patients with rehabilitation treatment and discharge destination data. The intervention was early mobilisation rehabilitation treatments delivered by a physiotherapist (PT, physical therapist in North America) or other clinical staff as identifiable in NHFD. We used ordinal logistic and propensity scoring regression models to adjust for confounding variables including age, sex, pre-fracture mobility, operative delay, and cognitive function and peri-operative risk scores.
In both the adjusted multivariate and propensity-weighted analyses, mobilisation on the day or the day following surgery is associated with better mobility function 30 days after discharge. However patients mobilised by a PT did not have better mobility compared to mobilisation by other professionals. Patients who received a PT assessment were not protected from poorer mobility 30 days after discharge, compared with those who did not receive an assessment. The discharge destination outcome is also better in mobilised than unmobilised patients, whether done by a PT or another health professional, and the difference persists, slightly attenuated, after propensity weighting.
In addition to the type of health professional initiating mobilisation, data on rehabilitation treatment activity and post-operative gait speed is needed to determine optimum rehabilitation dosage and functional outcome. After adjustment patients mobilised by non-PTs did as well as patients mobilised by PTs, suggesting that PTs’ current roles in very early rehabilitation should be reconsidered, with a view to redeploying them to more specialised later rehabilitation activity.
- Hip fracture
- Physical therapy
- Clinical audit
Hip fractures in later life result in a high morbidity and mortality rate, with an often permanent decline in mobility, independence and quality of life . Over a third of patients will have died 1 year after the fracture, compared with an expected annual mortality of about 10% in this age group . One-year mortality after hip fracture has declined over the last decade in the United Kingdom (UK),  but the three-fold difference in one-year mortality between hip fracture patients and the general population has remained.
Although surgery is generally successful, few people recover fully, and there is a significant impact on their quality of life. Most survivors fail to regain former levels of mobility and activity, many become more dependent, and around 10% are unable to return to their previous residence [1, 4]. Many older people often already have loss of skeletal strength from osteoporosis, and sarcopenia, which is in itself a risk factor for falls and fractures . In addition, people suffering a hip fracture frequently have other medical and physical problems, including impaired physical and cognitive function [6, 7]. There is also a significant psychological effect of hip fracture .
evaluate, after appropriate case-mix adjustment, the associations of rehabilitation (including physiotherapy) interventions with post-operative hip fracture mobility
evaluate the associations of rehabilitation interventions with postoperative discharge destination and return to the same setting as pre-fracture.
To assess the data quality of relevant NHFD variables
To assess the appropriateness of current NHFD variables to audit rehabilitation interventions and to make recommendations for improvement
The NHFD is a clinically-led, web-based audit of hip fracture care and secondary prevention in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. All 253 eligible hospitals who treat hip fractures are registered with NHFD, and 98% participate by regularly uploading case records in a standard dataset format. All patients aged 60 and over with a hip fracture coded as S72.0, S72.1, S72.2 in ICD-10, including subtrochanteric fractures, are submitted, regardless of the fracture mechanism. The NHFD is approved by the NHS England Health Research Authority Confidentiality Advisory Group to collect patient data without consent under Section 251 exemption, so no ethical approval was required for this study. We carried out the same data quality checks used by NHFD on the 2013–15 data we received .
To measure the effects of rehabilitation it would be most useful to have an activity type variable which described the type of rehabilitation delivered by specialist, mainly PT staff and the intensity e.g. number of sessions. As this is not part of the NHFD dataset we were forced to use proxies for rehabilitation activity or exposure. We used “mobilised on day of or day following surgery” as one measure of rehabilitation exposure. It is recognised that not all patients will be suitable for such mobilisation, and this field only seeks to capture how quickly individuals progress in initial physiotherapy. A patient would be described as ‘mobilised’ if they are able to sit or stand out of bed on the day of their return from operation, or on the following day. We used the variable “assessed by PT on day of or day after surgery” as another measure of rehabilitation exposure. Unfortunately these two variables are optional so some data is missing.
We used demographic variables known to be associated with hip fracture outcomes, including age, sex, and delay from admission to operation. The Abbreviated Mental Test Score (AMTS), which is assessed pre-operatively, is a simple and robust 10 item screening tool for acute patients. In AMTS poor cognitive function = 0 and good cognitive function = 10. The American Society of Anaesthesiologists (ASA) score is a preoperative risk score based on the presence of co-morbidities at the time of surgery. An ASA score > 2 is associated with increased risk additional to that of classification of operation and duration of surgery.
The first outcome variable was 30-day mobility score on a scale from 1 to 5, which counter-intuitively is higher for less mobile patients in NHFD. A new single mobility score has recently (2015) replaced all four measures previously used by the NHFD. In order to replace missing values of the single mobility score in older data, we used the translational matrix shown in Additional file 1: Table S1 in the online Supplementary Data file.
The second outcome variable was discharge destination from acute orthopaedic ward in combination with the location from which the patient was admitted. For the preoperative setting we used “admitted from”. The method for combining the two variables is shown in Additional file 1: Table S2. Discharge destination models were fitted using the 30-day discharge destination combined with preoperative setting expressed on an integer scale from 1 to 4, with higher integers indicating better outcomes (1 = “Dead”, 2 = “Worse”, 3 = “Same”, 4 = “Better”).
We tested all the variables of interest in the NHFD dataset to check whether they were statistically associated with discharge destination (χ2 tests and likelihood ratio tests). These variables were used to fit the ordinal logistic regression models. We used the predict command in Stata 14 to compute the ordinal-logistic odds ratio. We computed the c-statistic for a predictive score to measure the performance of the model.
Propensity score methods can be used for confounding control in non-experimental research . We also carried out a propensity scoring or matching analysis, which is often used to obtain a better estimate of effect size in real-world examples. Propensity score models do not rely on modelling the outcome, but on a model of the treatment given the confounders [20, 21].
The mobility outcome was mobility at 30 days post-operatively. The Mobility models were fitted by using complete cases only. The treatment or exposure variable was mobilisation on the day of or day after surgery. Confounders were gender, age at discharge, hours elapsed between admission and surgery, pre-operation AMTS, ASA grade, and pre-fracture mobility score (1 to 5 or missing).
We defined a propensity score for mobilisation treatment with respect to confounders, using a logistic regression model, then defined weights to estimate the average treatment effect (ATE),  equal to the reciprocal of the fitted probability of mobilisation for the mobilised and non-mobilised patients respectively. More information on the propensity scores, weights and balance checks is provided in the online Additional file 1: Figures S3-S5. Having defined the propensity weights, we used Poisson regression models, with Huber variances, to regress the 30-day mobility score with respect to the binary treatment variable (mobilisation), with two mean mobility scores for mobilised and unmobilised patients, respectively. The first model was unadjusted/unweighted, and the second model was weighted using the ATE weights. For both models, we estimated the ATE using the Stata 14 add-on package scenttest,  which carries out a scenario t-test between the mobilised and unmobilised scenarios. We carried out balance checks for the propensity score using the Stata add-on package somersd .
Discharge destination models were fitted as for Mobility. We defined a propensity score for mobilisation treatment with respect to confounders, using a multinomial logistic regression model. For each patient, we defined three propensity scores, one per mobilisation group, as the fitted probability of the patient being in the mobilisation group. We then defined weights for estimation of the ATE . Therefore we were directly standardising the sample to a hypothetical target population, with the same distribution of covariates as the sample, but with no association between treatment-propensity and treatment. The unadjusted Somers’ D suggested that our ATE weights had balanced the propensity score. We then used Poisson regression models and the Stata packages as for the mobility outcome.
Patient numbers are shown in the flowchart in Additional file 1: Figure S1. Of a total of 62,844 patients, there were 17,708 patients with non-missing values both for the treatment exposure and for 30-day mobility, and 34,142 patients with non-missing values both for the treatment variable and for the discharge-destination outcome, because as the latter did not require contacting patients but could be obtained from electronic health records (EHRs) it was easier to collect. Therefore, all analyses were subject to the caution of high missingness levels for the treatment exposure and the outcome.
Key baseline characteristics of complete cases of the Mobility model population after data translation
Pre Fracture Mobility
Freely mobile without aids
Mobile outdoors with one aid
Mobile outdoors with two aids or frame
Some indoor mobility but never goes out
No functional mobility
Mobility at 30 days
Freely mobile without aids
Mobile outdoors with one aid
Mobile outdoors with two aids or frame
Some indoor mobility but never goes out
No functional mobility
Mobilised on day of or day following surgery
Χ2 tests (Additional file 1: Table S1) showed patients’ pre-fracture mobility levels were most strongly associated with mobility 30 days after discharge, and AMTS, ASA grade and patients’ age were also strongly associated with post fracture mobility. Gender and whether patients received PT assessment were weakly associated with post fracture mobility.
Univariate & multivariate ordinal logistic analysis for mobility (NB higher score = less mobile) 30 days after discharge model
ORs (95% CIs)
ORs (95% CIs)
Mobilised day of/after surgery No
0.541 (0.511 0.573)
ASA grade Normal healthy individual
Mild systemic disease that does not limit activity
Severe systemic disease that limits activity but is not incapacitating
Incapacitating systemic disease which is constantly life-threatening
Moribund - not expected to survive 24 h with or without surgery
AMTS Score Poor cognitive function 0
Good cognitive function 10
PT assessment No
Pre Fracture Mobility Freely mobile no aids
Mobile outdoors one aid
Mobile outdoors two aids or frame
Some indoor mobility never goes out
No functional mobility
53.419 (42.656 66.899)
Delay (hours) to operation < 24
We assessed discrimination of the ordinal logistic model in the same way as a traditional logistic model, using area under the receiver operating characteristic curve . We fitted three different models but there was no difference in discrimination between them (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve = 0.755).
To further investigate associations of early mobilisation we then carried out a propensity-adjusted analysis comparing 30-day mobility between mobilised and unmobilised patients i.e. a two-category outcome (by grouping the PT and non-PT mobilisation). The Somers’ Ds of the propensity score suggested that our ATE weights had balanced the propensity score between the treatment groups. We used the propensity weights to estimate the ATE, equal to the difference between the two scenario means, with PT and Other grouped together. The results in Additional file 1: Figure S2 show that the mobilisation-propensity score predicts mobilisation, with a Somers’ D of 0.298. The ATE-adjusted scenario means are a little closer together than the unadjusted scenario means. The outcome is better (lower mobility score) in mobilised (=Yes) patients than in unmobilised patients (=No), whether the mobilisation is done by a PT or by somebody else, and the difference persists (slightly attenuated) after propensity weighting. The unadjusted results suggest that patients mobilised by a non-PT have a lower propensity score i.e. are better mobilised than patients mobilised by a PT, but the propensity-adjusted results suggest that this crude difference may easily be due to differences in the patients. This might happen if more vulnerable patients were allocated mostly to PTs and less vulnerable patients were allocated mostly to non-PTs. More detail about propensity scores and weights is provided in the online Additional file 1: Figure S3 is a forest plot of confounder categories vs Somers’ D score which shows that ATE-weighted propensity scores for confounders are greatly reduced.
In summary, we investigated the associations of early mobilisation, as a proxy for rehabilitation, mainly delivered by PTs, with two outcome variables, both before and after adjustment for confounding variables. In both in the 30 day mobility and discharge destination outcome models, we confirmed that patients mobilised early had a better outcome than those not mobilised early, whether they were mobilised by PTs or by non-PTs. The unadjusted analyses suggest that patients mobilised by non-PTs were less immobile at 30 days, but after adjustment, patients mobilised by non-PTs did as well as patients mobilised by PTs. There are a number of possible explanations for this: there may be no actual difference, PTs could mobilise more vulnerable patients with a worse prognosis, or non-PTs such as nurses may deliver more rehabilitation sessions. However we also showed that 57% of patients are currently being mobilised early by a PT and only 3% by “Others”, presumably nurses. If our findings are confirmed, PTs’ roles in early rehabilitation should be reconsidered, with a view to redeploying them to more effective rehabilitation activity.
There are few published cohort studies which have analysed rehabilitation exposures and outcomes, and in most instances they only measured effects of transfers to rehabilitation facilities. For example, in an Austrian cohort of 281 patients,  patients who were transferred to a nearby acute geriatric hospital for rehabilitation had significantly higher functional outcome scores. A study from the Scottish Hip Fracture Audit of 2708 patients aimed to determine whether place of residence is associated with a difference in access to comprehensive rehabilitation, rather than the effects of rehabilitation exposure . It found that previously mobile care home patients were less likely to return to pre-admission levels of function at 120 days post fracture.
Strengths & limitations
We used two methods and two outcomes and obtained similar results from both, suggesting that our findings are robust. However, both the models could be applied to only the sub-population of patients with complete exposure and outcome data.
Unmeasured confounding is another limitation. Although we adjusted for five confounders, it is possible that other patient factors influenced outcomes. For example, a US study was assessed the relationship between self-reported disease burden and functional improvement during and after inpatient rehabilitation . Compared with patients without chronic conditions, those who had a stroke had significantly worse self-care, transfer and locomotion ratings.
The biggest limitation in our analysis is that we were forced to use binary variables for early mobilisation or PT assessment as a proxy for rehabilitation, because there is inadequate data about the process of rehabilitation in the NHFD. There is likely to be great variation in the amount of early mobilisation rehabilitation, and there is little published data on the dose-response relationship. The hip fracture guideline from the UK’s National Institute for Health & Care Excellence found only one, small randomised controlled trial with 60 patients of early versus delayed mobilisation, and three randomised studies with a total of 288 patients using three different types of PT programmes, which were not comparable and so could not be meta-analysed . The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons guidelines for the management of hip fractures in the elderly recommend intensive supervised occupational therapy and physiotherapy in hospital and home,  but the studies it quotes as evidence carried out extensive home rehabilitation programmes,  for example an intervention group received a median of 4.5 home visits, (PT median 3, minimum 0– maximum 7 visits; occupational therapist median 1.5, minimum 0–maximum 8 visits; and 11 patients were visited by a nurse) . Real world rehabilitation may not have such a high dose.
In the real world the effectiveness of interventions which were efficacious in clinical trials may be sub-optimal. Given appropriate measurement, observational research using large databases such as our study can provide valuable evidence of clinical effectiveness. We found that early mobilisation is associated with better mobility function. NHFD data collection could be improved to capture dosage of rehabilitation activity by PTs and other healthcare professionals. This should not be done by manual data entry into NHFD, but by linkage of electronic data from hospital and community-based information systems. Unfortunately there is no national dataset for paramedical activity delivered to inpatients, which would allow this data to be linked with NHFD. NHFD should ask NHS Digital to produce such a dataset. In the interim, adding two variables in NHFD to capture a meaningful numerical rehabilitation outcome such as gait speed, and rehabilitation activity such as number of sessions, should be considered. The latter would help to determine the dose-response relationship of rehabilitation.
Future research and audit should aim to confirm our finding that, after adjustment, the results of early mobilisation by nurses seems to be similar to that achieved by PTs, although this could be a result of PTs treating patients with greater morbidity or frailty.
This study was funded by a research grant from the UK Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP). The funder was not involved in the design or conduct of the study. However we wish to acknowledge helpful comments received from an Expert Group coordinated by CSP, and from Prof Josip Car, Centre for Population Health Sciences (CePHaS), Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. We acknowledge the support of the National Hip Fracture Database, which is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership and managed by the Care Quality Improvement Department of the Royal College of Physicians, as part of the Falls and Fragility Fracture Audit Programme.
Availability of data and materials
The data that support the findings of this study are available from NHFD but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study, and so are not publicly available. The data was provided under a Data Sharing Agreement with NHFD. Data are however available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of NHFD. Researchers can apply for NHFD approval to utilise the datasets we have used.
MS conceived the study and obtained funding and data. HS drafted the Background and Results sections. RN devised the statistical methods and carried out final analyses with BS. BS managed the data and carried out most of the analyses. RN performed the final statistical analyses. BS produced the draft tables and all authors contributed to subsequent drafts. MS edited and approved the final version. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
The NHFD is approved by the NHS England Health Research Authority Confidentiality Advisory Group to collect patient data without consent under Section 251 exemption, so no ethical approval was required for this study.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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