Hip fractures are cracks or breaks in the top of the thigh bone (femur) close to the hip joint.
It is sometimes referred to by doctors as a proximal femoral fracture.
If you have a fractured hip:
- your hip will be painful
- you will not be able to lift, move or rotate (turn) your leg
Usually, you will be unable to stand or put weight on your leg, but occasionally this is possible. If the pain does not go away after a fall, do not ignore it.
If you have fractured your hip, you will need to get treatment as soon as possible.
Other signs of a hip fracture can include:
- bruising and swelling around the hip area
- a shorter leg on the injured side
- your leg turning outwards more on the injured side to seek medical help immediately.
Hip fractures are normally the result of a fall. A fall can cause a hip fracture if the bones are weak due to osteoporosis.
Treating a hip fracture
Hip fractures are almost always treated with surgery. About half of all cases require a partial or complete hip replacement (a surgical procedure to replace the hip joint with an artificial version). The rest need surgery to fix the fracture with plates and screws or rods.
Types of hip surgery
Most people will need surgery to fix the fracture or replace all or part of the hip. There are a number of different operations, explained in more detail below.
The type of surgery you have will depend on:
- the type of fracture you have (where in the femur the fracture is)
- your age
- how physically mobile you were before the hip fracture
Internal fixation means fixing the fracture (break in the bone) using devices to hold the bone in place while it heals, including:
This type of operation tends to be used for people over 65 years of age who have a fracture inside the socket of the hip joint (intracapsular) and for fractures outside of the socket of the hip joint (extracapsular).
Problems healing can sometimes lead to further surgery to remove the pins and screws. An operation called hemiarthroplasty is preferred in older people.
Hemiarthroplasty means replacing the femoral head with a prosthesis (false part). The femoral head is the rounded top part of the femur (upper thigh bone) that sits in the hip socket.
Complete hip replacement
A complete hip replacement (arthroplasty) is an operation to replace both the natural socket in the hip and the femoral head with prostheses (false parts). This is a more major operation than hemiarthroplasty and is not necessary in most patients.
A complete hip replacement may be considered if you:
- already have a condition affecting your joints, such as arthritis
- are very active
- have a reasonable life expectancy
Recovering from surgery
After surgery, a rehabilitation programme that includes physiotherapy will be used to help recovery.
Rehabilitation is important for a successful recovery.
The right rehabilitation programme may help older people get back on their feet after surgery.
How common are hip fractures?
Hip fractures are more common in older people, mostly occurring in people who are around 80 years of age. They are four times more common in women.