A hip fracture is a break in the upper part of the thigh bone (femur) where the bone angles toward the hip joint. The hip is a "ball-and-socket" joint where the "ball" at the top of the thigh bone (femur) fits inside the "socket" of the pelvis (acetabulum). It allows the upper leg to bend and rotate. Most hip fractures are caused by falls or an injury from direct impact to the side of the hip. Hip fractures are more common in elderly adults as a result of osteoporosis or bones that have weakened over time. In addition to advanced age, factors such as certain medications, chronic medical conditions, or a history of heavy tobacco and alcohol use, may weaken bones and make individuals more susceptible to hip fractures.
Symptoms of a Hip Fracture
Immediately after a hip has fracture, the individual may find it difficult to stand and may experience the following symptoms:
- Severe pain in the hip and groin
- Inability to put any weight on the leg
The leg may appear shortened or turn outward on the side of the injured hip.
Diagnosis of a Hip Fracture
A hip fracture is diagnosed after a physical examination of the hip and leg as well as imaging tests that may include X-rays, CT scans or MRI scans. Imaging tests allow the physician to identify the exact location of the fracture and determine the severity of the broken bone.
Treatment of a Hip Fracture
Treatment for a hip fracture often involves surgery. The surgical procedures may vary depending on the severity of the fracture, but may include:
- Surgery to insert screws and rods to hold the bone together
- Total hip replacement
- Partial hip replacement
Hip replacement surgeries involve replacing part of the femur bone or hip socket with prosthetic devices. After surgery, a physical therapy program is created to help the individual regain flexibility, increase range of motion and strengthen the hip and leg.
In rare cases, stable hip fractures may be treated through prolonged immobilization and bed rest. However, these instances are uncommon, and this form of treatment is usually only considered when the patient is too ill to undergo surgery.