A fractured hip is a break in the upper part of the femur (thigh) bone most commonly from a fall or direct impact to the side of the hip.
The hip is a ball and socket joint that permits the upper leg to rotate and bend at the pelvis.
Hip fractures occur due to a fall or direct impact to the side of the hip. Medical conditions such as osteoporosis (softening of the bone with age), or rarely cancer, can weaken the hone and make the hip more vulnerable to breaking. In extremely rare and severe cases of osteoporosis, it is possible for someone to break their hip by standing on the leg and twisting.
Broken hip symptoms
- Pain over the outer upper thigh
- Pain in the groin area
- Discomfort with any attempt to flex or rotate the hip
- The leg may appear to be shorter than the non-injured leg
To determine whether you have fractured hip, your physician will ask you for a complete medical history and conduct a physical examination. An X-ray typically can confirm the diagnosis, but on occasion, an MRI or CT scan is necessary.
Broken hip treatment
A patient might be considered for nonsurgical treatment if they are too ill to undergo anesthesia or were unable to walk before the injury.
Some fractures might be considered stable enough to be managed with nonsurgical treatment, but only if it doesn’t keep them at bed rest, as that increases the risk for infections such as bed sores, pneumonia, blood clots or nutritional imbalance. They must stay active but may need to limit their weight bearing. These patients are closely monitored.
Most hip fractures are treated with surgery. A surgeon will decide how to best fix a fracture based on the area of the hip that is broken. The most common way to fix the fracture is with a rod or with plate and screws. Alternatively, sometimes replacing the ball part of the ball and socket joint with a metal ball treats the fracture. The decision as to whether to fix the fracture of replace it is based on the type of fracture that has occurred. Either way, the goal of surgery is to make the patient more comfortable and increase the patient’s activity level, which decreases the risk for infections such as bed sores, pneumonia, blood clots or nutritional imbalance.
Recovery from a broken hip
Patients are always encouraged to get out of bed on the day following surgery with the assistance of a physical therapist. The physical therapist will work with the patient to help regain strength and the ability to walk. The hospital stay is typically three days and then the patient is transferred to a rehabilitation hospital.
The stay at the rehabilitation hospital is varied and is determined by the physician who is caring for the patient at the rehabilitation hospital. Those hip fractures that are fixed, the bone will heal in 6 to 12 weeks. The level of function that the patient is able to achieve after a fractured hip is dependent on how active the patient was before the fracture occurred.
Learn more about hip treatment at OrthoIndy.