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Fractured Hips

Board-Certified Hip Surgeons

A fractured hip is an orthopedic emergency and requires immediate emergency treatment. Do not drive yourself or a loved one to the emergency room after a suspected hip fracture, rather, call 9-1-1 for transportation that can provide life-saving care en-route to the hospital.

Why Is Breaking a Hip so Serious?

Hip fractures are especially serious for older adults, and the probability of sustaining a fractured hip doubles each decade after a person turns 50. Adults aged 65+ are the most common victims of hip fractures, as they have thinner bone density and less muscle strength which makes for the perfect storm, especially because the hips are weight-bearing joints. Sustaining a hip fracture is dangerous to your overall health, because it not only takes significant time to heal, much of which you’ll be bedridden, but ongoing research since 1980 has not shown substantial improvement in patient mortality outcomes.

Those at the highest risk for breaking a hip are the elderly, especially women, as they lose 30% to 50% of their bone density post-menopause, when women’s bodies produce less estrogen. The estrogen hormone maintains bone density and strength.

Do I Have a Fractured Hip?

Symptoms of a broken hip include:

  • Hip pain felt in the knees, particularly on one side
  • Lower back pain
  • Inability to stand or walk
  • Bruising and swelling of the hip area

Type of Fractured Hips

To understand hip fractures, it helps to have a better understanding of the thighbone (femur) of the hip joint. Joints are areas where 2 or more bones meet.

Not all hip fractures are the same. Some patients experience a single break or multiple breaks of the same bone. The most common types of fractures fall into 2 categories:

  • Femoral neck fracture: These common fractures happen about 1-2 inches from the hip joint, , especially among women who have osteoporosis. This type of hip fracture may cause complications due to the potential of cutting off the blood supply to the head of the femur which forms the hip joint.
  • Intertrochanteric hip fracture: These fractures occur 3-4 inches away from the hip joint, and they may be easier to repair, because the fracture won’t typically disrupt the blood supply to the injured bone.

How Is a Fractured Hip Diagnosed?

Your hip surgeon will typically order an X-ray of the hip and femur to properly diagnose a fractured hip. In some cases, a fractured hip will not be seen on a regular X-ray for patients experiencing hip pain and an MRI may be recommended. The MRI scan can usually show a hidden or incomplete hip fracture. If a patient is unable to have an MRI, a CT scan may be ordered instead. However, a CT scan is not as sensitive as an MRI in seeing hidden hip fractures.

Treatments for Fractured Hips

Once a patient has been diagnosed with a fractured hip, the goal of your hip surgeon is to get relief from hip pain as soon as possible. However, the patient’s overall health and medical condition will first need to be evaluated. Ideally, the patient will be able to immediately have surgery to fix the fractured hip, however, if the patient is too ill to undergo surgery the orthopedist will work to reduce the patient’s pain level and provide comfort in order to stabilize the patient before considering surgery.

Unfortunately, if a patient is too ill to undergo surgery to fix a fractured hip and assuming the fracture is considered “stable” the patient will likely be confined to bed rest as a way to manage the fracture and attempt to prevent the fracture from becoming unstable or displaced (change position.) The hip surgeon will need to follow-up with the patient with periodic X-rays of the area to follow the progress. Patients confined to bed rest will also need to be closely monitored for complications from prolonged immobilization such as infections, bed sores, pneumonia, and blood clots.

If you have a fractured hip please call 9-1-1 immediately for emergency care.

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