A broken bone, or fracture, happens when excessive force applied to a bone causes it to break or shatter.
A hip fracture occurs when there is a break in the hip bone, usually in the upper part of the femur or the pelvic bone. Hip fractures are a particular concern for older women because women lose bone density due to a decrease in estrogen levels after menopause. By the age of 90, approximately one out of every four women will experience a hip fracture.
Depending on the patient’s health and medical condition, there may be unforeseen complications associated with hip fracture surgery.
A hip fracture is more than just a broken bone. For elderly adults, breaking a hip can mean a major change in lifestyle. Activity and physical therapy can help recover strength and mobility. Surgery is probably a necessity, and it can take as long as a year to recover.
Hip fractures are typically caused by a fall. They are considered an orthopedic emergency and require immediate attention and emergency treatment. Although some fractures are minor and cause only pain, other fractures can be more severe.
Age is a significant risk for hip fractures. As a person ages, the bones naturally lose some strength and are more likely to break, even from a minor fall.
Fracture types vary depending on the circumstances of the injury and the amount of force applied to the bone. Some fractures break the bone completely, while others just cause a crack in the bone.
Signs and symptoms of a hip fracture include:
- Inability to move immediately after a fall
- Stiffness, bruising and swelling in and around the hip area
- Severe pain in the hip or groin
- Turning outward of the leg on the side of the injured hip
- Shorter leg on the side of the injured hip
- Inability to put weight on the leg on the side of the injured hip
Hip Replacement Surgery
In young patients hip replacement surgery may not be required. Depending on the type of fracture hip repair surgery may resolve the issue without having to replace any of the joint bones. Hip repair surgery involves using screws, plates and rods to hold the hip in place while the bone heals.
In elderly patients where bones are more fragile, when a thigh bone (femur) is broken and/or the pelvis is damaged, hip replacement surgery is performed. Whether a partial hip replacement (replacing the ball portion of the joint) or total hip replacement (replacing both the ball and socket portion of the joint) depends on the hip fracture. The surgical approach (posterior, anterior or lateral) the surgeon does depends on the surgeon’s preferred method and the patient’s needs. Recovery from the surgery varies depending on the type of surgery done and the approach taken. (Click on the embedded links for more detailed information on these topics.)
If surgery is required it is usually performed in the first 24 hours after the injury is diagnosed. Having the surgery done so soon reduces complications, pain and the length of the hospital stay.
Physical therapy is very important after any hip surgery. Building strength and flexibility in the muscles surrounding the hip will determine the lifestyle a patient can lead after the injury is healed. Patients can then maintain their muscle strength by eating a healthy diet containing proper levels of calcium and Vitamin D, being active (especially performing weight-bearing exercises such as walking) and not smoking.
Elderly patients fear hip fractures because a fracture can sometimes trigger a downward spiral in lifestyle and health, but this does not have to be true. Hip replacement surgery is highly successful and with proper and conscientious follow-up care, patients can return to their active lifestyles.
For more information, contact Dr. Dan Albright at 919-863-6808.