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A study by researchers at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine found general anesthesia and spinal anesthesia to be relatively similar in terms of recovery after hip surgeries. 

Credit: Avi Singh

Researchers at Penn Medicine found similar patterns of recovery following hip surgery for patients who received general anesthesia and spinal anesthesia.   

The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at an annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists this month, is the largest randomized study to compare the post-operative outcomes of general anesthesia and spinal anesthesia. The researchers who conducted the study examined the common yet unsupported claim that spinal anesthesia is safer for patients undergoing surgery for hip fractures, Penn Medicine News reported

General anesthesia involves the use of inhaled and intravenous medications to induce unconsciousness prior to surgery, while spinal anesthesia involves the injection of medication into the spinal column to numb the area undergoing surgery, Penn Medicine News reported.

The researchers followed 1,600 patients in 46 hospitals across the United States and Canada, Penn Medicine News reported. Each of the patients was at least 50 years old, had a broken hip, and had been able to walk prior to their injury. 

The research team, led by Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Mark D. Neuman, split patients into two groups of approximately equal size with one group receiving general anesthesia and the other group receiving spinal anesthesia during hip surgery. Either form of anesthesia appears to be safe in many cases.

“This is important because it suggests that choices can be guided by patient preference rather than anticipated differences in outcomes in many cases,” Neuman told Penn Medicine News.

Over 250,000 Americans undergo surgical procedures annually regarding fractured hips, according to Penn Medicine News. Researchers found that hip fractures in older patients are especially worrisome because of the increased risk associated with a decrease in mobility from the fracture. 

"What our study offers is reassurance that general anesthesia can represent a safe option for hip fracture surgery for many patients," Neuman told Penn Medicine News