Hip Fractures & Broken Hip
A hip fracture is a break in the upper quarter of the thigh bone near the hip joint. People over 65 years of age are the most at risk for a hip fracture, as the risk of falling increases with age. This type of injury can cause potentially life-threatening complications, so it is important to be seen by a doctor. Treatment almost always includes surgery, followed by physical therapy.
Causes of Hip Fractures
A hip fracture can happen in a variety of ways. Most commonly, the injury occurs after an accident, such as a fall or a car crash. In older people with weaker bones, a hip fracture can happen simply by falling from a standing height or by twisting a leg too far. In athletes, a fracture can occur from repeated stress on the hip. This is especially true of long-distance runners.
What Part of the Hip Can Break?
Four different parts of the hip can experience a fracture. There is the femoral neck, intertrochanteric area, subtrochanteric area, and femoral head.
- Femoral Neck: The top of the femur (thigh bone) and below the “ball” that sits in the hip socket.
- Intertrochanteric area: The point where the muscles of the thigh and the hip attach; this is where the hip bone starts to protrude.
- Subtrochanteric area: Within 5 cm distal to the lesser trochanter. Primarily consists of cortical bone.
- Femoral head: The “ball” in the ball-and-socket joint sits atop the femoral neck.
Hip Fracture Symptoms
There are several signs and symptoms of a hip fracture. Things to look out for include:
- Severe pain in the hip and groin area
- Inability to get up from a fall
- Inability to walk
- Inability to put pressure or weight on the leg of the injured side
- Outward turning of leg on the injured side
- Swelling or bruising around the hip area
How To Diagnose a Hip Fracture
With the help of an orthopedic doctor, a hip fracture can be diagnosed with an X-ray or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Most fractures are visible on an X-ray. An MRI scan shows both soft tissue and bones, making it easier to find fine (or hairline) fractures in the hip area.
If more testing is needed, a doctor may order a CT scan, which is another way to get a more detailed picture. Finally, there is a bone scan, whereby a dye is injected before taking images. Hairline fractures can be highlighted in this way.
Treatment for Hip Fractures
Surgery is almost always needed in the event of a hip fracture. Surgery is most effective when done as soon as possible after the injury. Having surgery done shortly after the injury helps shorten the length of time in the hospital, and reduces pain and complications following surgery. The procedure may be delayed if other medical conditions need to be addressed first.
The type of surgery depends on the patient’s age and the type or severity of the fracture.
- Hip pinning: Internal hip repair using metal screws, rods, or plates to hold the bone together while the fracture heals. This is the optimal choice when the bones can be properly lined up.
- Total hip replacement: The upper femur and hip socket are both replaced with artificial parts. Studies increasingly show total hip replacement to be the most efficient surgery in terms of cost and continued independence after recovery.
- Partial hip replacement: The hip socket remains in place, but the upper thigh bone (femur) is replaced with an artificial part. Often recommended for patients who can no longer live alone or have additional health conditions.
Recovering From a Hip Fracture
When surgery is complete, the patient is encouraged to start moving right away to prevent blood clots and bed sores. Physical and occupational therapy will be part of the recovery process. Exercises will focus on the range of motion and strengthening.
Sometimes, a stay in a long-term facility is necessary. Here, there is an emphasis on learning how to do everyday activities in a new way. The patient learns how to cook, get dressed, use the toilet, and bathe while recovering from surgery. Occasionally, a patient may need a walker or wheelchair for mobility and independence.
Hip Specialists at Raleigh Orthopaedic
When it comes to diagnosing, treating, and recovering from a hip fracture, our hip specialists at Raleigh Orthopaedic are ready to help. Serving the Wake County area since 1919, the team has performed thousands of procedures and provided professional and efficient care. If you’ve had a recent hip fracture, visit an orthopedic urgent care or find a clinic near you to schedule an appointment today.