Background: To assess the relationship between surgical delay and mortality in elderly patients with hip fracture. Systematic review and meta-analysis of retrospective and prospective studies published from 1948 to 2011. Medline (from 1948), Embase (from 1974) and CINAHL (from 1982), and the Cochrane Library. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals for each study were extracted and pooled with a random effects model. Heterogeneity, publication bias, bayesian analysis, and meta-regression analyses were done. Criteria for inclusion were retro- and prospective elderly population studies, patients with operated hip fractures, indication of timing of surgery and survival status.
Methodology/principal findings: There were 35 independent studies, with 191,873 participants and 34,448 deaths. The majority considered a cut-off between 24 and 48 hours. Early hip surgery was associated with a lower risk of death (pooled odds ratio (OR) 0.74, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.67 to 0.81; P<0.000) and pressure sores (0.48, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.60; P<0.000). Meta-analysis of the adjusted prospective studies gave similar results. The bayesian probability predicted that about 20% of future studies might find that early surgery is not beneficial for decreasing mortality. None of the confounders (e.g. age, sex, data source, baseline risk, cut-off points, study location, quality and year) explained the differences between studies.
Conclusions/significance: Surgical delay is associated with a significant increase in the risk of death and pressure sores. Conservative timing strategies should be avoided. Orthopaedic surgery services should ensure the majority of patients are operated within one or two days.