Original Research

Hip Trauma

Does Preoperative Pneumonia Affect Complications of Geriatric Hip Fracture Surgery?

Author Affiliation | Disclosures

Acknowledgments: The authors thank Jensa Morris, MD, and Nicholas S. Golinvaux, MD, for their advice regarding the design and scope of this study.

Authors’ Disclosure Statement: Dr. Grauer reports that he or an immediate family member receives consulting fees from Bioventus, Medtronic, and Stryker. The other authors report no actual or potential conflict of interest in relation to this article.

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Preoperative pneumonia, reported in 0.3% to 3.2% of hip fracture patients, may be a risk factor for adverse outcomes of hip fracture repair. No studies have reported on baseline differences or adverse outcomes in surgically managed geriatric hip fracture patients with and without preoperative pneumonia, and no data argue for or against delaying surgery in these patients. A retrospective cohort of geriatric patients with operatively treated hip fractures from 2005 to 2012 was identified in the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database. Preoperative pneumonia was present in 82 (1.2%) of 7128 geriatric hip fracture patients identified and was associated with male sex, transfer status, functional status, preoperative anemia, confusion, dyspnea at rest, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Multivariate analysis of 30-day outcomes of hip fracture repair revealed that preoperative pneumonia was associated with a higher risk for any adverse event (relative risk [RR] = 1.44), serious adverse event (RR = 1.79), and death (RR = 2.08) after hip fracture repair. Underweight body mass index at time of surgery (<18.5 kg/m2) was predictive of 30-day mortality (RR = 4.67). Surgical delay of 1 to 4 days was not associated with adverse events. Geriatric hip fracture patients with preoperative pneumonia, especially the underweight, are at increased risk for complications and death after hip fracture repair. We cannot recommend against early hip fracture surgery in this population.

Take-Home Points

  • The prevalence of preoperative pneumonia is 1.2% among hip fracture patients aged >65 years.
  • Preoperative pneumonia is an independent risk factor for mortality and adverse events including renal failure, prolonged ventilator dependence, and prolonged altered mental status after geriatric hip fracture surgery.
  • Underweight BMI (<18.5 kg/m2) was associated with higher mortality within 30 days among hip fracture patients admitted with pneumonia.
  • The mortality rate normalized to that of patients without pneumonia within 2 weeks of hip fracture surgery.
  • Time from admission to surgery was not associated with adverse events or mortality among hip fracture patients admitted with pneumonia.

Preoperative pneumonia remains relatively unexplored as a risk factor for adverse outcomes in geriatric hip fracture surgery. Dated studies report a 0.3% to 3.2% prevalence of “recent pneumonia” in patients presenting with hip fracture but provide neither a definition of pneumonia based on clinical criteria nor a subset analysis of outcomes in the pneumonia group.1-3 Although active pneumonia has been identified as a preoperative optimization target in the management guidelines for geriatric hip fracture,4 we are unaware of any studies that have reported on differences in demographics, comorbidities, delay to surgery, or adverse outcomes between hip fracture patients with and without preoperative pneumonia.

This paucity of information on the effect of preoperative pneumonia in the hip fracture population may be related to low prevalence of preoperative pneumonia and a cadre of variable definitions, which limit identification of a cohort of patients with preoperative pneumonia large enough from which to draw meaningful results. Database studies, especially those using surgical registries rather than administrative or reimbursement data, offer particular advantages for investigation of such rare clinical entities.5Medical care of patients with pneumonia alone is known to be facilitated by assessments of mortality risk from clinical and laboratory data. The modified British Thoracic Society rule/CURB-65 (confusion, urea, respiratory rate, blood pressure) score is strongly predictive of mortality in hospitalized adults with pneumonia (odds ratio [OR], 4.59; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.42-14.85; P = .011) and may guide antibiotic therapy, laboratory investigations, and the decision to intubate in a patient with pneumonia.6-8 This score is predictive of adverse events (AEs), hospital length of stay, and use of intensive care services.6,7,9-13 We hypothesized that preoperative clinical indicators assessed by pneumonia severity scores as well as patient demographics and baseline comorbidities may also have prognostic value for risk of AEs in a cohort of geriatric hip fracture surgery patients with preoperative pneumonia.

In this article, we first describe the prevalence of preoperative pneumonia in geriatric hip fracture surgery patients as well as demographic and operative differences between patients with and without the disease. We then ask 3 questions: Is preoperative pneumonia an independent risk factor for mortality and adverse outcomes in geriatric hip fracture surgery? Is there a postoperative interval during which the unadjusted mortality rate is higher among patients with preoperative pneumonia? In patients with preoperative pneumonia, what are the predictors of morbidity and mortality?


Yale University’s Human Investigations Committee approved this retrospective cohort study, which used the American College of Surgeons (ACS) National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) database for the period 2005 to 2012. ACS-NSQIP is a prospective, multi-institutional outcomes program that collects data on preoperative comorbidities, intraoperative variables, and 30-day postoperative outcomes for patients undergoing surgical procedures in inpatient and outpatient settings.14

Unlike administrative databases, which are based on reimbursement data, ACS-NSQIP data are collected by trained surgical clinical reviewers for the purposes of quality improvement and clinical research, and data quality is ensured with routine auditing.15 The program has gained a high degree of respect as a powerful and valid data source in both general16 and orthopedic17 surgery literature. The database offers a particular advantage with respect to the study of preoperative pneumonia: Only patients with new or recently diagnosed pneumonia on antibiotic therapy who meet strict criteria for characteristic findings on chest radiography, clinical signs and symptoms of respiratory illness, and positive cultures are coded as having actively treated pneumonia at time of surgery.15

To identify hip fracture patients over the age of 65 years who underwent operative fixation of a hip fracture, we used Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) hip fracture codes, including 27235 (percutaneous screw fixation), 27236 or 27244 (plate-and-screw fixation), and 27245 (intramedullary device), as well as 27125 (hemiarthroplasty) and 27130 (arthroplasty) for patients with a postoperative International Classification of Disease, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) diagnosis code (820.x, 820.2x, or 820.8) consistent with acute hip fracture.18,19 Procedure type, anesthesia type, and delay from admission to surgery were captured for all procedures.

Preoperative demographics included age, sex, transfer origin, functional status, and body mass index (BMI) category. Binary comorbidities were classified as preoperative anemia (hematocrit, <0.41 for men, <0.36 for women), confusion, dyspnea at rest, uremia (blood urea nitrogen, >6.8 mmol/L), history of cardiovascular disease (congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, percutaneous coronary intervention, angina pectoris, medically treated hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, or resting claudication), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, renal disease (renal failure or dialysis), and cigarette use in preceding 12 months.20,21 Although preoperative hypotension and respiratory rate are often considered in patients with pneumonia, these variables were not available from the ACS-NSQIP data.6,22Pearson χ2 test for categorical variables was used to compare baseline demographics and operative characteristics between patients with and without pneumonia, and Student t test was used to compare intervals from hospital admission to hip fracture surgery, surgery start to surgery stop, and surgery to discharge between patients with and without preoperative pneumonia.

Binary outcome measures were compared between patients with and without preoperative pneumonia. “Any AE” included any serious AE (SAE) or any minor AE. SAEs included death, acute renal failure, ventilator use >48 hours, unplanned intubation, septic shock, sepsis, return to operating room, coma >24 hours, cardiac arrest requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation, myocardial infarction, thromboembolic event (deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism), and stroke/cerebrovascular accident. Minor AEs included progressive renal insufficiency, urinary tract infection, organ/space infection, superficial surgical-site infection, deep surgical-site infection, and wound dehiscence. Other binary outcome measures included discharge destination and unplanned readmission within 30 days after hip fracture surgery.23Poisson regression with robust error variance as described by Zou24 was used to compare the rates of any, minor, and individual AEs, and any SAEs, between patients with and without pneumonia. Multivariate analysis accounted for the baseline variables in Table 1. AEs that occurred more than once in each group were included in the analyses.

Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was performed for postoperative mortality within 30 days. Within the preoperative pneumonia group, covariates from Table 1 were identified as predictors of any AE, SAE, or death within 30 days after hip fracture surgery by stepwise multivariate Poisson regression with robust error variance. When interval from admission to surgery was longer than 24, 48, 72, or 96 hours, it was also included as a covariate. Variables that did not show an association with AEs at the P < .20 level were not included in the final regression model. All analyses were performed with Stata/SE Version 12.0 statistical software (StataCorp).


Of the 7128 geriatric hip fracture patients in this study, 82 (1.2%) had active pneumonia at time of surgery (Table 1). Age, BMI, preoperative uremia, history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, renal disease, and smoking were similar between groups. In addition, there was no difference in anesthesia type or fixation procedure between the pneumonia and no-pneumonia groups. Patients with preoperative pneumonia differed significantly with respect to sex, transfer from facility, preoperative functional dependence, anemia, confusion, dyspnea at rest, and history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Table 1).

Interval from admission to surgery was longer (P < .001) for geriatric hip fracture patients with preoperative pneumonia (mean, 6.8 days; 95% CI, 2.5-11.1 days) than for those without pneumonia (mean, 1.5 days; CI, 1.4-1.5 days). There was no difference (P = .124) in operative time between the pneumonia group (mean, 72.8 min; CI, 64.0-81.5 min) and the no-pneumonia group (mean, 66.1 min; CI, 61.2-67.0 min). Interval from surgery to discharge was longer (P < .001) for patients with preoperative pneumonia (mean, 10.1 days; CI, 6.9-13.4 days) than for those without pneumonia (mean, 6.3 days; CI, 6.1-6.4 days).

Adverse outcomes of geriatric hip fracture surgery are listed in Table 2. In the multivariate analysis, preoperative pneumonia was significantly associated with any AE (relative risk [RR]) = 1.44) and any SAE (RR = 1.79).

Specific AEs were also assessed. In terms of SAEs, patients with pneumonia were more likely to die (RR = 2.08), develop acute renal failure (RR = 14.61), become comatose for more than 24 hours (RR = 7.31), and require mechanical ventilation for more than 48 hours after surgery (RR = 6.48). In terms of minor AEs, there were no significant differences between patients with and without pneumonia.

Survival patterns diverged between patients with and without preoperative pneumonia (Figure). The unadjusted mortality rate was qualitatively higher in patients with preoperative pneumonia than in patients without pneumonia during the first days after hip fracture (slopes of unadjusted mortality curves in Figure). Of note, no patient under age 75 years with pneumonia at time of surgery died within the 30-day study period.

Among geriatric hip fracture patients with preoperative pneumonia, multivariate analyses revealed no significant association of any preoperative comorbidity with any AE or any SAE. Given the gravity of the death complication, however, death within 30 days after surgery was analyzed separately, and was found to be significantly associated (RR = 4.67) with being underweight (BMI, <18.5 kg/m2) (Table 3). Admission-to-surgery interval longer than 24, 48, 72, or 96 hours did not reach significance at the P < 0.2 level in the stepwise regressions and therefore was not associated with a higher or lower risk of any AE, SAE, or death.


In the general US population, pneumonia accounts for 1.4% of deaths in people 65 years to 74 years old, 2.1% in people 75 years to 84 years, and 3.1% in people 85 years or older. In total, 3.4% of hospital inpatient deaths are attributed to pneumonia.25 In hospitalized general orthopedic surgical patients as well as hip fracture patients, pneumonia is strongly associated with increased mortality.26,27

We identified a preoperative pneumonia prevalence of 1.2%, which is comparable to the rates reported in the literature (0.3%-3.2%).1-3 To our knowledge, our study represents the largest series of patients with preoperative pneumonia at time of hip fracture repair, and the first to independently associate preoperative pneumonia with increased incidence of AEs, including death.

This study had its limitations. First, the ACS-NSQIP morbidity and mortality data, which are limited to the first 30 postoperative days, may be skewed because AEs that occurred after that interval are not captured. Second, coding of pneumonia in ACS-NSQIP does not convey specific information about the disease and its severity—infectious organism(s) responsible; acquisition setting (healthcare or community); treatment given, including antibiotic(s) selection, steroid use, dosing, and duration; and measures of treatment efficacy—limiting interpretation of the difference in delay to surgery. We cannot say whether the longer interval in patients with pneumonia reflects medical optimization, or whether the delay itself or any interventions during that time positively or negatively affected outcomes. In addition, despite using a large national database, we obtained a relatively small sample of patients (82) who had pneumonia before surgical hip fracture repair.

Multivariate analysis controlling for baseline demographics and comorbidities revealed that multiple SAEs were independently associated with preoperative pneumonia (overall SAE, RR = 1.79). Postoperative use of ventilator support for longer than 48 hours (RR = 6.48) and coma longer than 24 hours (RR = 7.31) are expected given the severity of pulmonary compromise in the study cohort.28,29 Acute renal failure (RR = 14.61) can occur in both hip fracture patients and community-acquired pneumonia patients and may be a multifactorial complication of the pulmonary infection, of the anesthesia, or of the surgical intervention in this cohort.30-32Unadjusted mortality in hip fracture takes months to a year to normalize to that of age-matched controls.32-34 In our series, the unadjusted death rate in the pneumonia cohort (Figure) was transiently elevated during the first weeks after surgery but then drew nearer the rate in the nondiseased hip fracture cohort by the end of the first month. Early death in the pneumonia group likely was multifactorial, potentially influenced by the increased burden of comorbidities in the pneumonia group at baseline, and the longer delay to surgery,35-38 as well as by the natural history of treated pneumonia in hospital patients, who, compared with age-matched hospitalized controls, also exhibit higher mortality during only the first 2 to 4 months of hospitalization for pneumonia.39 We regret that quality improvement strategies in the treatment of geriatric hip fracture surgery with pneumonia cannot be extrapolated from these results.

Similarly, the utility of BMI <18.5 kg/m2 as an actionable preoperative finding cannot be assessed from these results. However, we propose that underweight geriatric hip fracture patients with pneumonia may benefit from more aggressive preoperative optimization that does not delay surgery. Higher acuity of postoperative care, including more intensive nursing care and early coordination of care with respiratory therapists and medical comanagement teams, may also be beneficial.

Anesthesia type did not differ between patients with and without preoperative pneumonia and was not associated with AEs in patients with preoperative pneumonia. Consistent with our findings, multiple studies have reported no significant differences in short-term outcomes of hip fracture repair between general and spinal anesthesia, though no other study has compared the benefits of general and spinal anesthesia for patients with preoperative pneumonia.40-44 Although spinal anesthesia (relative to general anesthesia) has been reported to have benefits in hip and knee arthroplasty, these benefits appear not to translate to hip fracture repair.45-50 The results of the present study suggest that general and spinal anesthesia may be equivalent in terms of risk for the geriatric hip fracture patient with preoperative pneumonia.43,44Our attempt to evaluate the CURB-65 pneumonia severity score as a prognosticator of AEs was thwarted by the absence of required variables in the ACS-NSQIP dataset (confusion, uremia, dyspnea, and age were available; hypotension and blood pressure were not). In our analysis, we did include, individually, variables previously found to predict AEs in the medical pneumonia population (confusion, uremia, dyspnea at rest, anemia).9-11,32 However, these clinical findings are nonspecific in hip fracture patients, who may become anemic, confused, dyspneic, or uremic from a multitude of factors related to their injury and unrelated to pneumonia, including but not limited to hemorrhage, muscle damage, renal injury, and pulmonary embolism. It is not surprising that confusion, uremia, dyspnea at rest, and anemia were not individually predictive of AEs or death within 30 days after surgery in the cohort of geriatric hip fracture patients with pneumonia.

There is no literature that argues for or against delaying hip fracture surgery in geriatric hip fracture patients with pneumonia. The surgical delay observed in this population is ostensibly related to medical optimization of the pneumonia and/or underlying comorbidities. However, we did not find a morbidity or mortality detriment or benefit in delaying surgery by 1 to 4 days in this population. Delay of surgery is a poor covariate, given extensive confounding by medical management and preoperative optimizing of comorbid conditions (reflected in our independent variable and covariates) as well as institutional and surgeon variations in policy and behavior and other unaccounted influences. Although some authors have found no difference in mortality or major AEs between hip fracture patients who had a surgical delay and those who did not,31,51-53 other series and meta-analyses have suggested a mortality detriment in a surgical delay of more than 2 days36,54 or 4 days55 from admission. Given our data, we cannot recommend against immediate hip fracture repair in the subpopulation of geriatric hip fracture patients with pneumonia.

Our study findings suggest that preoperative pneumonia is a rare independent risk factor for AEs after hip fracture surgery in geriatric patients. Underweight BMI is predictive of death in geriatric hip fracture surgery patients who present with pneumonia, whereas early surgical repair appears not to be associated with adverse outcomes. Further investigation is warranted to determine if such patients benefit from specific preoperative and postoperative strategies for optimizing medical and surgical care based on these findings.

Am J Orthop. 2017;46(3):E177-E185. Copyright Frontline Medical Communications Inc. 2017. All rights reserved.

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