General anesthesia just as safe as spinal anesthesia after broken hip surgery

New research shows that the rates of survival, functional recovery, and post-operative delirium are similar for patients whether they underwent general anesthesia or spinal anesthesia for hip fracture surgery. This work, from the largest randomized study ever conducted to compare the two anesthesia techniques, challenges common thinking that patients who get spinal anesthesia fare better. Led by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine, the study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Doctor wearing a white coat and latex gloves holds up an oxygen mask.


“Available evidence has not definitively addressed the question of whether spinal anesthesia is safer than general anesthesia for hip fracture surgery, an important question to clinicians, patients, and families. Our study argues that, in many cases, either form of anesthesia appears to be safe,” says lead investigator Mark D. Neuman, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care. “This is important because it suggests that choices can be guided by patient preference rather than anticipated differences in outcomes in many cases.”

During general anesthesia, inhaled and intravenous medications are used to make patients unconscious, which often requires temporary breathing tube placement to support the lungs during surgery. For spinal anesthesia, medications are used to numb the lower part of the body through an injection into the spinal column; while patients may receive sedation for comfort, they are typically able to breathe on their own during surgery and rarely require a breathing tube.

This story is by Frank Otto. Read more at Penn Medicine News.