Hip Fracture

The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint.  The “ball” is the head of the femur, or thigh bone, and the “socket” is the cup shaped acetabulum.  The joint surface is covered by a smooth articular surface that allows pain free movement of the joint.

A hip fracture is a break that occurs near the hip in the upper part of the femur or thigh bone. The thigh bone has two bony processes on the upper part - the greater and lesser trochanters. The lesser trochanter projects from the base of the femoral neck on the back of the thigh bone. Hip fractures can occur either due to a break in the femoral neck, in the area between the greater and lesser trochanter or below the lesser trochanter.

Hip fractures are most frequently caused after minor trauma in elderly patients with weak bones and by a high-energy trauma or serious injuries in young people. Long term use of certain medicines, such as bisphosphonates to treat osteoporosis (a disease causing weak bones) and other bone diseases, may increase the risk of certain types of hip fractures.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of hip fracture include:

  • Pain in the groin or outer upper thigh
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Discomfort while rotating the hip
  • Shortening of the injured leg
  • Outward or inward turning of the foot and knee of the injured leg

Your doctor may order an X-ray to diagnose your hip fracture. Other imaging tests, such as the magnetic resonance imaging or (MRI), may also be performed to detect the fracture.

Depending on the area of the upper femur involved, hip fractures are classified as

  • Intracapsular Fracture
  • Intertrochanteric Fracture
  • Subtrochanteric Fracture

Hip fractures are typically treated surgically.  Depending on the type of fracture, a plate and screws may be placed on the side of the thigh bone and across the broken pieces of bone to provide stability while the break heals.  In some cases, a metal rod may be inserted into the bone to fix the fracture.  Hip fractures that involve the neck of the femur may be treated with partial or complete hip replacement.

Broken hip bones typically heal in 6-8 weeks; however, full recovery can take up to a year depending on each patient’s health and mobility.

In rare cases, hip fractures may be treated non-surgically if the risk of surgery outweighs the benefits (typically in patients who are too frail for surgery).