A hip fracture is a break in the thigh bone just below the hip joint. The hip joint consists of a ball at the top of the thigh bone and a rounded socket in the pelvis. Most hip fractures occur 1-2 inches below the ball portion of the hip.
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Factors that increase the risk of fracture in people with healthy bones include:
- Motor vehicle accidents and other types of major trauma
- Sporting activity that places excess stress on the hip—can lead to stress fractures (rare)
Women are more likely than men to fracture their hips, especially after menopause. It is more common in older adults. Other factors that increase the risk of hip fractures include:
- Previous hip fracture or history of falling
- Family history of fractures later in life
- Small-boned, slender body—low body weight
Factors that can weaken bone and increase the risk of fractures include:
- Osteoporosis —a bone-thinning condition that weakens all bones
- Poor nutrition
- Deficient intake or absorption of calcium and vitamin D
- Physical inactivity
- Kidney disease
- Cortisone or other steroids
- Thyroid disorder
- Low testosterone in men
- Bone conditions such as osteomalacia—rare
- Bone tumors—rare
Factors that increase the risk of falls that can lead to fractures include:
- Poor balance and coordination
- Excessive alcohol use
- Irregular heart beat or low blood pressure
- Chronic disease or fragile health
- Parkinson disease
- History of stroke
- Problems with vision
- Heart failure
- Mental impairments including Alzheimer disease
- Certain medications which cause lightheadedness, drowsiness, or weakness
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
Surgery is needed for most hip fractures to make sure the hip heals properly. Surgery will also allow you to move about as you recover. However, surgery may not be appropriate for some people with small fractures or poor overall health. These fractures will be monitored as they heal with imaging tests. Traction may also be used to hold the leg in the appropriate place while the bone heals.
The type of surgery will depend on what part of the hip bone was broken, how severe the fracture was and the overall health of your bone. Surgical options include:
- Insertion of surgical plates and screws to realign the bones and/or support the fractured area. The bone will be able to heal more securely.
- Hip replacement—damaged areas of bone are removed and metal devices are inserted in their place. This surgery is reserved for those with severe bone injury or disease. It is more common in older adults.
Your doctor may recommend assistive devices such as wheelchair, cane, or walker for your recovery and rehabilitation.
A physical therapist will assess the hip fracture. An exercise program will be created to help recovery and to strengthen the muscles.
Major trauma is typically caused by accidents and hard to avoid.
Talk to your doctor if you have osteoporosis or are at risk for osteoporosis. Medications, dietary changes, and weight bearing activities may help slow bone loss.
To reduce the risk of falls:
- Ask your doctor if any of your medications may contribute to bone loss or symptoms of lightheadedness, drowsiness, or confusion.
- Get your eyes checked regularly.
- Clean spills and slippery areas right away.
- Remove tripping hazards such as loose cords, rugs, and clutter.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower.
- Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub.
- Put in handrails on both sides of stairways.
- Walk only in well-lit rooms, stairs, and halls.
- Keep flashlights on hand in case of a power outage.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org
OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org
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