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Hip fracture
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Hip fracture

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SENIORS' HEALTH

Bones/Joints/Muscles

A hip fracture is a serious injury, particularly if you're older, and complications can be life-threatening. Fortunately, surgery to repair a hip fracture is usually very effective, although recovery often requires time and patience. Most people, even those older than age 80, make a good recovery from a hip fracture. Generally, the better your health and mobility, the better your chances for a complete recovery are. You can break your hip at any age, but 90 percent of hospitalizations for hip fractures are for people older than age 65. As you age, your bones become less dense as they slowly lose minerals. Gradual loss of density weakens bones and makes them more susceptible to a fracture.

 

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Treatment

Surgery is almost always the best way to repair a hip fracture. Doctors typically use nonsurgical alternatives, such as traction, only if you have a serious illness that makes surgery too risky. The type of surgery you have generally depends on the part of the hip that fractured, the severity of the fracture and your age.

Femoral neck fractures
Doctors repair this type of fracture by one of three methods:

  • Metal screws. If, following the break, the bone is still properly aligned, your doctor may insert metal screws into the bone to hold it together while the fracture heals. This is called internal fixation.

  • Replacement of part of the femur. If the ends of the broken bone aren't properly aligned or they've been damaged, your doctor may remove the head and neck of the femur and replace them with a metal prosthesis. This is known as hemiarthroplasty.

  • Total hip replacement. This procedure involves replacing your upper femur and the socket in your pelvic bone with a prosthesis. Total hip replacement may be a good option if arthritis or a prior injury has damaged your joint, affecting its function prior to the fracture.

In general, for fractures where bones aren't well aligned, the older you are the more likely you are to receive a prosthesis. Internal fixation is used more in younger people and for fractures that are well aligned.

Intertrochanteric region fractures
To repair this type of fracture, your doctor usually inserts a metal screw (hip compression screw) across the fracture. The screw is attached to a plate that runs down alongside the femur and is attached with other screws to help keep the bone stable. As the bone heals, the screw allows the bone pieces to compress, so the edges grow together.

Hospital stays following hip fracture surgery generally last less than a week. Afterward, you may continue to meet with a physical therapist. Nursing home stays are often required for those who can't bear weight on their hip after surgery and who don't have assistance at home.

Hip fracture > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:42 AM