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A few steps could lead to big gains for hospitalized seniors
Date:12/10/2010

GALVESTON, Texas "You'll be back on your feet in no time" is a phrase familiar to anyone who's ever had to spend time in a hospital. Now, a new study has shown that hospitalized elderly patients who literally "get back on their feet" by taking even short walks around a hospital unit tend to leave the hospital sooner than their more sedentary peers.

Conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and described in a paper appearing in the current issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, the study draws on data collected from 162 hospitalized patients over age 65. Each patient was fitted with a pager-sized "step activity monitor" attached to his or her ankle an electronic device capable of counting every step the patient took.

"Using these monitors, we were able to see a correlation between even relatively small amounts of increased mobility and shorter lengths of stay in the hospital," said Steve Fisher, a UTMB Health assistant professor and lead author on the paper. "We still found this effect after we used a statistical model to adjust for the differing severities of the patients' illnesses."

Clinicians have long recognized the importance of getting patients with orthopedic or neurologic conditions up and walking as soon as possible, but no such "standard of care" currently exists for older adults admitted for acute medical illnesses. According to the authors of the UTMB Health study, their work could serve as a first step toward that goal and may also open the door to other improvements in hospital care for the elderly.

"Mobility is a key measure in older people's independence and quality of life generally, and this study suggests that's also true in the hospital setting," said Fisher. "When we hospitalize elderly people, we set up a paradoxical situation: you can have a positive outcome of the acute problem that brought them there, but still have negative consequences as a result of extended im
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Contact: Jim Kelly
jpkelly@utmb.edu
409-772-8791
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Source:Eurekalert

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