Sleep problems connected to orthopaedic trauma

November 4, 2013


Sleep problems connected to orthopaedic trauma

Orthopaedic issues are among some of the most common medical conditions experienced. According to data in a report by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, approximately one out of every two adults in the U.S. reports experiencing a musculoskeletal injury or issue, amounting to about 110 million people. A significant amount of these cases need to be addressed and treated with orthopaedic surgery, and the HCUP report cites the numerous improvements that these procedures can bring to the patients who undergo them.

With that said, orthopaedic injuries and conditions can lead to side effects beyond the obvious (pain, difficulty conducting daily tasks and so on). A recent study presented at the Orthopaedic Trauma Association Annual Meeting pointed out that troubles with sleep are among the most significant of these, and that they need to be dealt with and treated with the same level of care as symptoms in the physical realm.

Sleep and orthopaedic trauma - the connection
Brandon Schulman, BA, a member of the Eastern Orthopaedic Association, conducted an in-depth study that took place over the course of one year and followed a total of 1,095 patients who had suffered a variety of different orthopaedic traumas. None of these injuries would seem, on the surface, to be associated with obvious emotional or psychological side effects - they included fractures of the ankle, distal radius, proximal humerus and tibial plateau, among others.

With the aid of the Short Musculoskeletal Function Assessment, Schulman and his fellow researchers found that orthopaedic injuries brought about difficulties with sleep up to a certain point after they occurred. After that, any continued sleeping problems stemmed from emotional distress, not the injury. During the year-long observation period, study authors surveyed their subjects at three-, six- and 12-month intervals. While the former two points saw evidence of patients being disturbed in their sleep due to their injury, all sleep issues that occurred a year or more after the injuries and their respective treatments stemmed from separate emotional problems.

In a statement regarding the study, Schulman identified the need for orthopaedic surgeons to provide aid to patients who experienced sleeping problems or other mental disturbances, regardless of the fact that the injuries themselves did not necessarily predicate the mental symptoms.

"Orthopaedic surgeons should refer patients to mental health specialists if they suspect a psychological cause for persistent sleep difficulties, and a close relationship between orthopaedic trauma surgeons and patients is imperative to providing the highest levels of patient care," Schulman said. 

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