Medicine: Accidents & the Elderly

All too often after major surgery, especially among elderly patients in accident cases, there is truth in the sour jest that the operation was a success but the patient died. Last week, in the London medical journal Lancet, two physicians described a method of treatment that slashed the death rate among such patients at Birmingham Accident Hospital in England's Midlands.

Commonest cause of death in these cases, they found, was blocking of a pulmonary artery by a traveling blood clot that had developed in the leg veins. This often undetectable process killed 40%-50% of patients over 50, who died after fractures of...