Your thighbone, or femur, is the large bone between your knee and your hip. Your femur bends inward at the top. The part of your femur at this bend is called the neck. The rounded end of your femur is called the ball, or head. The head of your femur fits into a socket in your pelvis to form your hip joint. If a break happens anywhere in the top quarter of the femur, it is considered a hip fracture.
Most hip fractures are caused by falls. Hip fractures happen more often in women. Your risk for hip fractures increases with age. Having weak bones, or osteoporosis, can also increase your risk. Some types of cancer and stress fractures can also weaken your bones. Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone that are caused by overuse.
Some of the symptoms you might have with hip fracture include:
- Pain when trying to move the hip
- Deformity, and
- One leg that appears to be shorter than the other
The pain is often felt in the upper outer part of your thigh or in your groin.
If you’ve injured your hip, your provider will check your hip movement and feel for tender spots.
Many hip fractures can be seen on an X-ray. If your provider suspects that you have a fracture, but it can’t be seen on an X-ray, you may need imaging tests called an M-R-I scan. If you’re not able to have an M-R-I test, a C-T scan may be used instead.
Sometimes hip stress fractures can be treated by taking all the weight off your hip joint with crutches. However, most hip fractures require surgery.
If the pieces of your hip bone are lined up, or nondisplaced, you may have a surgery called fixation. During this surgery, the surgeon uses bone plates, screws, and nails to support your femur and hold it together. Fixation may also be used for displaced fractures, which is when the bone pieces are not lined up. Fractures of the femoral neck or head usually require hip replacement.
After your surgery, you’ll probably take medications to help prevent blood clots. You may be given compression stockings or boots to wear. You’ll generally be encouraged to get out of bed and start moving around with help the day after surgery. A physical therapist will work with you to strengthen your leg and get you moving again. The goal is to help you regain the level of mobility and independence you had before your fracture.
On rare occasions, a nondisplaced hip fracture may be treated with bed rest instead of surgery. Bed rest requires close monitoring for any complications that might happen. This kind of treatment is considered only for patients who are unable to walk, have severe dementia, or have serious medical problems that would make surgery dangerous.
Because falls are the most common cause of hip fracture, you can reduce your chance of a hip fracture by reducing your risk of falling. Go through your home and remove any clutter or loose rugs that you might trip over. Regular exercise will help keep your leg muscles strong and improve your balance.
Talk with your provider about your bone strength. If you don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D in the foods you eat, you may need a supplement. There are also medications that can increase bone strength and help prevent bone loss if you have osteoporosis. You should also get your eyes checked.
Things to Remember
- Hip fractures are most common in older adults.
- Surgery is required for most hip fractures.
- You can take steps to reduce your chance of fracturing your hip in the future.
What We Have Learned
Surgery is never used to repair a hip fracture. True or False?
The answer is False. Most hip fractures require surgery to repair.
Falls are the most common cause of hip fractures. True or False?
The answer is True. Older adults are more likely to fall – and so are more likely to fracture a hip.