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August 2019

Advancing hip fracture recovery without complex technology

At a glance
The intern

Thiago de Aquino Costa Sousa from Unitri - Centro Universitário do Triângulo (Brazil)

Hosted by

Mohammad Auais, Faculty of Health Sciences, Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University

The research

The Stronger At Home program is a cost-effective tool for patients recovering from hip fractures that helps reduce risk of further fractures.

Hip fracture is one of the most devastating but preventable injuries among individuals aged 65 years and older in Western countries.

In this age group, around 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men will sustain at least one subsequent osteoporotic fracture in their remaining lifetime. After older adults sustain a hip fracture, decline in function and mobility can be rapid. The result is an increased dependency on care and financial burdens placed on their caregivers and the healthcare system. Up to half of hip fracture patients do not return to their pre-fracture functional levels and end up in long-term care institutions.

When returning home following hip-fracture surgery, it’s critical that patients avoid further injury so they can remain living in their homes. Comprehensive extended care in the community could significantly improve health outcomes for survivors of hip fractures while dramatically reducing healthcare expenses. That’s why Rehabilitation Therapy Assistant Professor Mohammad Auais created the Stronger at Home program, joining forces with Mitacs Globalink Research Intern Thiago de Aquino Costa Sousa from Unitri - Centro Universitário do Triângulo, Brazil.

The toolkit is remarkably simple and doesn’t require a mobile device or even a plug. It’s an evidence-based booklet and a new model of care that includes an illustrated exercise program of gradually increasing intensity and pain management. It includes an extended physiotherapy program with self-management tips for patients with hip fractures to use upon leaving hospital.

“We hope that this toolkit and model of care will decrease adverse outcomes, promote recovery, improve transition experience, and help patients to live independently in their homes. Home-based physiotherapy services can improve overall physical wellbeing, enhance social functioning, ensure regular monitoring of isolated seniors, and reduce the rate of re-hospitalization and future healthcare service utilization,” says Professor Auais. 

Currently patients receive conventional care through physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nutritional, or social-work rehabilitation services in a hospital setting with little support in the community once they are discharged.

“The booklet doesn't intend to replace the conventional therapy but add a new approach to increase recovery after being discharged. Patients participate in their own recovery by exercising whenever they want. Furthermore, it is cost-effective and easy to follow,” says Thiago de Aquino Costa Sousa.

An asset to therapists and patients alike

The booklet is designed to be used by healthcare providers (mainly physical therapists), policy-makers, and patients.

According to Prof Auais, “The hip fracture population is a very complex group of patients with multi-physical and mental afflictions. We plan to further address this complexity in the future.”

The format of the book doesn’t preclude the use of technology. “The team is investigating the possibility of implementing an interactive app-digital version of the booklet, allowing the participants and their therapists to search for the best therapeutic exercise for their current physical condition,” says Thiago.

Mitacs’s Globalink program produced an ideal match in Thiago and Professor Auais.

“I always wanted to contribute my work to science,” says Thiago. “When I saw a Brazilian professor that works in a Canadian University promoting the Mitacs Globalink Internship on his social media, I applied and I was selected for these 12 fabulous weeks here at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. This opportunity to join a research team was the missing icing on my undergraduate cake, and it was much better than I could imagine.”

For the professor, the support was high calibre, “Thiago is very outgoing and enthusiastic about research. He is also a careful and detail-oriented person. He is always looking to learn new skills and not afraid to try new things.”

Thiago was impressed with the university’s resources and support for international students.

“Here in Canada I was able to see what happens when a nation invests in higher education and cutting-edge research. High-tech devices and expensive equipment widely available for students and researchers produce work that improves human well-being and the sustainability of the environment,” he says.

Going forward Thiago plans to do graduate studies that will improve quality of life of the aging population by focusing on high-tech equipment and services that reduce falls.

Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada, along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Manitoba, and the Government of Quebec for their support of the Globalink Research Internship program. In addition, Mitacs is pleased to work with the following international partners to support Globalink: Universities Australia; Brazil’s Universidade de São Paulo; China Scholarship Council; Campus France; German Academic Exchange Service; Mexico’s Government of the State of Guanajuato, EDUCAFIN, and Tecnológico de Monterrey; Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche scientifique, des Technologies de l'Information et de la Communication de la Tunisie and Mission universitaire de Tunisie en Amérique du Nord; and Ukrainian-Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko.


Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities: BD@mitacs.ca