As we age, the likelihood that we could fracture our hip rises sharply due to our weakening bones and balance. A hip fracture usually happens in the top portion of the femur or the pelvic bone.
By far the most common cause of a hip fracture is falling. More so than other broken bones, hip fractures are treated as orthopedic emergencies because of their proneness to forming blood clots and serious urinary tract infections. Hip fractures require immediate medical attention and, usually, emergency treatment. That’s why it is so important to recognize and seek help for a suspected hip fracture.
Hip Pain & More: Fracture Causes & Symptoms
Hip pain after a fall or injury should be taken seriously in people who suffer from the following conditions:
- Post-menopausal women, underweight individuals, and other people who suffer from osteoporosis, since their bones have typically lost density and are more susceptible to fracturing
- Alcoholics and people with dementia, due to a decreased mental awareness
- People advanced in age, due to the general weakening of their body (including their bones)
For individuals who fall into the above categories, urgent medical attention should be sought if any of these symptoms are present:
- Intense hip or groin pain
- Hip pain that radiates to the knee
- Hip discoloration or inflammation
- Inability to walk without an aid (e.g., walker, cane, or crutch)
- Intolerance to bearing weight on the affected leg
- Involuntarily outward rotation of leg connected to the affected hip
- Low back pain
- Hip stiffness
- Shortening of the leg on the side of the affected hip
Diagnosing Hip Fractures
A hip fracture is frequently diagnosed based on symptoms and atypical leg positioning alone—and an X-ray can confirm the severity and location of the fracture. In instances where a fracture is not visualized on the X-ray but is still suspected based on symptoms, an MRI may be ordered to look for a hairline fracture.
Treating Hip Fractures
Due to the average age and risk factors of the typical individual suffering a hip fracture, hip surgery or replacement is usually the treatment needed.
Fracture Repair Surgery
This surgery usually entails the use of metal screws to hold the repaired bone(s) in place while the fracture heals. Sometimes screws are attached to a metal plate that runs down the femur.
Partial Hip Replacement
With this procedure, a portion of the bone, usually the femur head and neck, is removed and replaced with a prosthesis. Partial hip replacement surgery is recommended for patients with underlying health issues or dementia, whose breaks are serious or complex, or who reside in a skilled care environment.
Total Hip Replacement
This surgery replaces the entire top portion of your femur, as well as your pelvic socket, with a prosthesis. This procedure is often recommended for multiple or shattering fractures, severe pain, or in people whose hip blood supply is compromised by injury. With advancing technologies and techniques, more and more individuals can live independently (and with good outcomes) after a total hip replacement.
Rehabbing the Hip after Surgery
With the help of walking aids, your physical therapist will get you moving again with a gradual, stepwise plan based on your unique circumstances. Part of that plan will be a prevention strategy for avoiding future hip fractures, including regular exercise and a proper diet.