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Hip Fracture

Definition

A hip fracture is a break in the thigh bone just below the hip joint. The hip joint consists of a ball at the top of the thigh bone and a rounded socket in the pelvis. Most hip fractures occur 1-2 inches below the ball portion of the hip.

Hip Fracture

hip fracture

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Causes

A hip fracture is caused by a trauma to the bone. Fractures in young people with healthy bones are cause by major trauma. Fractures in older adults or people with conditions that lead to weakened bones may be caused by minor trauma such as a fall.

Risk

Factors that increase the risk of fracture in people with healthy bones include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents and other types of major trauma
  • Sporting activity that places excess stress on the hip—can lead to stress fractures (rare)

Women are more liley than men to fracture their hips especially after menopause. Other factors that increase the risk of hip fractures include:

  • Previous hip fracture or history of falling
  • Family history of fractures later in life
  • Small-boned, slender body—low body weight

Factors that can weaken bone and increase risk of fractures include:

  • Osteoporosis—a bone-thinning condition that weakens all bones
  • Poor nutrition
  • Deficient intake or absorption of calcium and vitamin D
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Kidney disease
  • Cortisone or other steroids
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Low testosterone in men
  • Bone conditions such as osteomalacia—rare
  • Bone tumors—rare

Factors that increase the risk of falls that can lead to fractures include:

  • Weakness
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Irregular heart beat or low blood pressure
  • Chronic disease or fragile health
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • History of stroke
  • Problems with vision
  • Heart failure
  • Mental impairments including Alzheimer’s disease
  • Certain medications that cause lightheadedness, drowsiness or weakness

Symptoms

A hip fracture may cause:

  • Pain in the hip
  • Difficulty or inability to stand, walk, or move the hip
  • Abnormal appearance of the broken leg:
    • Looks shorter
    • Turns outward

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken of your bones. This can be done with:

  • X-ray
  • Bone scan
  • MRI scan

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

Surgery

Surgery is needed for most hip fractures to make sure the hip heals properly. Surgery also allows you to move about as you recover. However, it may not be appropriate for some people with small fractures or poor overall health. These fractures will be monitored as they heal with imaging tests. Traction may also be used to hold the leg in the appropriate place while the bone heals.

The type of surgery will depend on what part of the hip bone was broken, how severe the fracture was and the overall health of your bone. Surgical options include:

  • Insertion of surgical plates and screws to realign the bones and/or support the fractured area. The bone is be able to heal more securely.
  • Hip replacement—damaged areas of bone are removed and metal devices are inserted in their place. This surgery is reserved for those with severe bone injury or disease. It's more common in older adults.

Your doctor may recommend assistive devices such as wheelchair, cane or walker for your recovery and rehabilitation.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists assess the hip fracture. An exercise program may be created to help recovery and to strengthen the muscles.

Prevention

Major trauma is typically caused by accidents and hard to avoid.

Talk to your doctor if you have osteoporosis or are at risk for osteoporosis. Medications, dietary changes and weight bearing activities may help slow bone loss. Reduce your risk of falls and help prevent injury

 

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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