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Hip Fracture

What is a hip fracture?

A hip fracture is a break in the femur (thigh bone) of the hip joint. Joints are areas where two or more bones meet. The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint where the femur meets the pelvic bone. The ball part of the hip joint is the head of the femur, and the socket is a cup-like structure in the pelvic bone called the acetabulum. Hip fracture is a serious injury and requires immediate medical attention.

What causes a hip fracture?

A fall is the most common reason for a hip fracture among the elderly. A small percentage of people may have a hip fracture occur spontaneously. In younger people, a hip fracture is generally the result of a car accident, a fall from a great height, or severe trauma.

Hip fracture is more common in older people because bones become thinner and weaker from calcium loss as a person ages, generally due to osteoporosis. Bones affected by osteoporosis are more likely to break if a person falls. Most hip fractures sustained by older people occur as a result of falling while walking on a level surface, often at home.

As they get older, women lose 30 percent to 50 percent of their bone density (thickness). The loss of bone speeds up dramatically after menopause because women produce less estrogen. Estrogen contributes to maintaining bone density and strength.

Treatment for a hip fracture:

Specific treatment for hip fracture will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectation for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

A fracture of the hip is generally treated with surgery. Your physician may use metal devices to strengthen and stabilize the joint. In some situations, a total hip replacement may be performed. The type of surgical repair will depend upon the type of hip fracture. The physician will determine the best procedure for a person, based on the individual’s situation.

The goal of treatment is to provide relief from pain and resume your normal activity level. Hip surgery usually requires an in-hospital stay. While in the hospital, physical therapy exercises are started to regain range of motion and strength in the hip. Physical therapy will continue at home or on admission to a rehabilitation facility.