Death certification in fractured neck of femur

Public Health. 1989 Jul;103(4):237-43. doi: 10.1016/s0033-3506(89)80036-8.


Fracture of the neck of the femur is a major public health problem within the elderly population of most industrialised countries whose health services are increasingly being taken up with its management. Moreover, within Britain, there is evidence of a real increase in its incidence even allowing for the ageing of the population. A condition whose aetiology is still far from clear (and where no strategy for prevention can therefore be formulated), and which is of such importance to the planning and provision of services demands detailed investigation and careful monitoring. Mortality data are an important part of epidemiological studies of disease problems and, in Britain, in resource allocation through the Resource Allocation Working Party (RAWP) formula. In this study, a cohort of 2,631 elderly patients, resident in the largest health district in the country, and admitted to hospitals over a seven year period with the diagnosis of fractured neck of femur, was assembled. Hospital records were linked to national mortality data to determine whether patients had died and, where this was so, to record underlying cause of death. A total of 930 deaths occurred within the study cohort but only 52 were certified as dying from fractured neck of femur; even amongst those who died in the hospital to which they were admitted with the fracture, less than a fifth of deaths were attributed to the fracture as underlying cause. Diseases of the circulatory system accounted for almost half of all underlying causes of death and bronchopneumonia a further 20%. These findings suggest a gross undercertification of fractured neck of femur as a cause of death in the elderly and are consistent with other studies. They may be explained by a failure of junior hospital doctors to understand the importance of accurate certification of cause of death and a misguided attempt to reduce the burden to coroners of having to consider each death from this cause.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Death Certificates*
  • Femoral Neck Fractures / mortality*
  • Humans
  • United Kingdom