Understanding Hip Fractures

What to know about hip fractures: 

A hip fracture, also commonly referred to as “broken hip,” is a fracture of the upper area of the femur, or thigh bone. They can be caused from traumatic injury from falls or car accidents, but can also occur from simple movements or falls in people of high risk.

High risk individuals are typically those with bone density issues. Weak bones are easily damaged with twisting or impact. The elderly population has an increased risk due to an decrease in bone density with age. Women also have tend to have lower bone density than men, particularly after menopause. 

Other risk factors that can lead to hip fracture include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Nutritional Problems that affect the intake of calcium and vitamin D
  • Lack of weight bearing exercise
  • Medications that weaken the bones or increase your fall risk
  • Long term use of alcohol or tobacco that results in the loss of bone density

Symptoms of a hip fracture:

A hip fracture can be life threatening. Therefore, you should seek medical attention if you suspect that you may have a hip fracture. Symptoms to look for include:

  • Bruising
  • Pain in the hip and upper thigh
  • The inability to get up or bear weight on the affected side
  • Swelling and inflammation to the hip area
  • The injured side suddenly turns outward

Types of hip fractures:

Hip fractures are diagnosed into three different types depending on what part of the hip is affected. Severe cases can also have multiple fractures to the hip and femur.

  • Intracapsular Fracture- fracture is to the ball or the neck of the femur, within the capsule of the hip joint
  • Intertrochanteric Fracture- fracture in-between the greater and lesser trochanters of the femur
  • Subtrochanteric Fracture- fracture is below the lesser trochanter of the femur

Treatment for hip fracture:

The majority of  hip fractures will require some type of surgery. Surgical intervention done within one to two days of the fracture will see better outcomes. This reduces the increase of pain and risk of complications. Above all, the faster the patient is able to regain mobility the better outcome they will have.

Internal fixation is where metal rods, screws and/or plates are used to hold the bone together as it heals. This can be done if the bone is able to be aligned properly.

A partial hip replacement is done if part of the femur needs to be replaced. The femoral head or “ball” of the femur needs to be replaced, for example.

When both the ball and socket of the hip joint are replaced it is referred to as a total hip replacement. Studies suggest that patients who undergo the total hip replacement procedure following a hip fracture have lower overall healthcare costs and improved long-term results.

3d rendered illustration of a hip replacement

Prevention:

First, a way to reduce your risk of hip fracture is to keep your bones strong. Weight bearing exercise, a diet high in calcium, and refraining from alcohol and tobacco use are ways to increase your bone density. Secondly, reducing your risk of falling can also prevent hip fracture. Tips for preventing falls include:

  • keeping cords away from walking areas
  • using non-slip rugs
  • night lights to get around in the dark
  • installing railings and grab bars on steps and bathtubs
  • refrain from using ladders or unsteady furniture to reach things

In addition, see your physician if you have any balance or vision concerns. Improvements can be possible with physical therapy, corrective lenses or adjusting medications.

 

Contact the Heekin Clinic today to schedule an appointment and find out more about how we can help you with your hip or knee pain.

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