Comparative effectiveness of pain management interventions for hip fracture: a systematic review

Ann Intern Med. 2011 Aug 16;155(4):234-45. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-155-4-201108160-00346.


Background: Pain management is integral to the management of hip fracture.

Purpose: To review the benefits and harms of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions for managing pain after hip fracture.

Data sources: 25 electronic databases (January 1990 to December 2010), gray literature, trial registries, and reference lists, with no language restrictions.

Study selection: Multiple reviewers independently and in duplicate screened 9357 citations to identify randomized, controlled trials (RCTs); nonrandomized, controlled trials (non-RCTs); and cohort studies of pain management techniques in older adults after acute hip fracture.

Data extraction: Independent, duplicate data extraction and quality assessment were conducted, with discrepancies resolved by consensus or a third reviewer. Data extracted included study characteristics, inclusion and exclusion criteria, participant characteristics, interventions, and outcomes.

Data synthesis: 83 unique studies (64 RCTs, 5 non-RCTs, and 14 cohort studies) were included that addressed nerve blockade (n = 32), spinal anesthesia (n = 30), systemic analgesia (n = 3), traction (n = 11), multimodal pain management (n = 2), neurostimulation (n = 2), rehabilitation (n = 1), and complementary and alternative medicine (n = 2). Overall, moderate evidence suggests that nerve blockades are effective for relieving acute pain and reducing delirium. Low-level evidence suggests that preoperative traction does not reduce acute pain. Evidence was insufficient on the benefits and harms of most interventions, including spinal anesthesia, systemic analgesia, multimodal pain management, acupressure, relaxation therapy, transcutaneous electrical neurostimulation, and physical therapy regimens, in managing acute pain.

Limitations: No studies evaluated outcomes of chronic pain or exclusively examined participants from nursing homes or with cognitive impairment. Systemic analgesics (narcotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) were understudied during the search period.

Conclusion: Nerve blockade seems to be effective in reducing acute pain after hip fracture. Sparse data preclude firm conclusions about the relative benefits or harms of many other pain management interventions for patients with hip fracture.

Primary funding source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupressure
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Anesthesia, Spinal
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Comparative Effectiveness Research
  • Delirium / etiology
  • Delirium / prevention & control
  • Hip Fractures / complications*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Block
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management*
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Traction
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation


  • Analgesics