New Horizons in Hip Fracture Prevention – the Hip’Air Airbag Belt

February 2, 2018

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Hip fractures are a notorious problem for the elderly. Nine in ten hip fractures occur in people over 60. In fact, for every five years after the age of fifty the number of hip fractures doubles, leading to a number of negative consequences that linger for much longer than the fractures themselves take to heal.

Among the risk factors for hip fractures are the health issues and life circumstances common to many seniors, namely:

  • Osteoporosis, a weakening of the bone due to loss of bone density, which affects post-menopausal women most significantly due to loss of estrogen;
  • Tobacco and alcohol use, which also lead to bone loss;
  • Hereditary factors, with Caucasian and Asian populations more prone to osteoporosis;
  • Medications, whose side effects may create additional risk of falling;
  • Loss of coordination;
  • Medical conditions such as rheumatoid disorders, loss of mobility, nervous system disorders may increase the risk of falling;
  • Poor lighting and tripping hazards at home.


Dire consequences

Hip fractures may be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Although the surgery is relatively straightforward, the complications are quite morbid. For instance, mortality rates are estimated at approximately 25% for the year following a hip fracture in an elderly patient, making complications more dangerous than the bone fracture itself. Loss of mobility and autonomy also follows in the majority of cases, with 50% of patients needing to use a cane or a walker, and 20% relocating to a permanent care facility after a hip fracture.


New hopes

Helite is a company that undertook a quest to stop this terrible problem and presented the result at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. It took the French company that specializes in motorcycle airbag vests 10 years of intensive research and development to come up with airbags for the hips. Padded hip protectors have been around for a while, but their bulkiness makes them an undesirable accessory for many.


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Helite’s Hip Air airbag belt is a lightweight system that functions in a manner similar to that of an automobile air bag system. A number of different types of sensors (gyroscopes and accelerometers) is used to analyze the motion over 1000 times per second, and determine whether a person is walking in a normal mode or falling. The algorithm is perfected to the point where it takes 200 milliseconds for fall detection and 80 milliseconds to inflate the airbags. The airbags are located on the two sides, and protect the zone between mid-thigh and upper hip. After being inflated, the bags deflate after 30 seconds.

The future of Hip’Air belt

Product testing in both the United States and Europe is not slated to start until March 2018, but research has already proven that this innovative device is eight times more efficient in absorbing the impact of a fall than the padded protection. The high-tech device is excellent for preventing the numerous incidents that leave a considerable number of people permanently disabled. Other airbag systems are also under development, but the Helite team claims the superiority of their product due to the sensors that it utilizes. A Virginia Tech University research study found that it does, in fact, prevent 85% of hip fractures in case of a fall. As Fox News reports, the Helite Hip’Air belt does not require FDA approval, is likely to become available for purchase in the US in September 2018 at a projected price of $800.

How popular will this product be? It’s hard to believe that it will take over the market for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s an expensive piece of equipment, and, as of now, the manufacturing firm is not planning to work with insurance companies. Secondly, people usually just don’t want to wear hip protectors, and the Hip’Air belt is not as bulky as regular hip protection pads, but still far from invisible.


While more and more hi-tech gadgets are entering the senior safety product market, the need for emergency communications still remains poignant, so medical alert systems are still relevant. We recommend installing one, because there’s always a chance that it’ll play a life-saving role in your loved one’s life.

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