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BACKGROUND: Delirium is common after hip fracture surgery, affecting up to 50% of patients. The incidence of delirium may be influenced by mode and conduct of anaesthesia. We examined the effect of spinal anaesthesia (with and without sedation) compared with general anaesthesia on early outcomes following hip fracture surgery, including delirium. METHODS: We used prospective data on 107,028 patients (2018 to 2019) from the National Hip Fracture Database, which records all hip fractures in patients aged 60 years and over in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Patients were grouped by anaesthesia: general (58,727; 55%), spinal without sedation (31,484; 29%), and spinal with sedation (16,817; 16%). Outcomes (4AT score on post-operative delirium screening; mobilisation day one post-operatively; length of hospital stay; discharge destination; 30-day mortality) were compared between anaesthetic groups using multivariable logistic and linear regression models. RESULTS: Compared with general anaesthesia, spinal anaesthesia without sedation (but not spinal with sedation) was associated with a significantly reduced risk of delirium (odds ratio (OR)=0.95, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.92-0.98), increased likelihood of day one mobilisation (OR=1.06, CI=1.02-1.10) and return to original residence (OR=1.04, CI=1.00-1.07). Spinal without sedation (p<0.001) and spinal with sedation (p=0.001) were both associated with shorter hospital stays compared with general anaesthesia. No differences in mortality were observed between anaesthetic groups. CONCLUSIONS: Spinal and general anaesthesia achieve similar outcomes for patients with hip fracture. However, this equivalence appears to reflect improved perioperative outcomes (including a reduced risk of delirium, increased likelihood of mobilisation day one post-operatively, shorter length of hospital stay and improved likelihood of returning to previous residence on discharge) among the sub-set of patients who received spinal anaesthesia without sedation. The role and effect of sedation should be studied in future trials of hip fracture patients undergoing spinal anaesthesia.

Original publication




Journal article


Bmc med

Publication Date





Anaesthesia, Delirium, General, Hip fracture, Outcomes, Spinal, Aged, Anesthesia, General, Delirium, Hip Fractures, Humans, Middle Aged, Northern Ireland, Postoperative Complications, Prospective Studies, Wales