A hip fracture is a break in the bones of the hip. While anyone can suffer from a hip fracture, older people are at higher risk due to the weakening of the bones as a result of aging. Couple that with poor vision, balance problems, and taking multiple medications, older people are more likely to trip and fall, the most common cause of hip fractures.
Causes and Risk Factors
Falls, especially from a significant height, are the most common causes of a broken hip. Other things that can lead to hip fracture include a blunt trauma to the hip and degenerative bone diseases such as osteoporosis.
There are certain factors that can increase one’s risk of hip fracture. These include obesity, unhealthy habits such as smoking and a sedentary lifestyle and having a medical condition that causes dizziness or loss of balance.
Signs and Symptoms
When one suffers from hip fracture, there can be a significant pain in the outer upper thigh or groin area. Discomfort can also be felt for every hip movement such as flexion or rotation of the hip.
Aside from pain, a hip fracture can also cause bruising, inflammation of the hip, and difficulty in walking. When the bone is completely broken, the injured leg will appear shorter than the non-injured one.
When to See a Doctor
Hip fractures are considered as an orthopaedic emergency. They require immediate medical attention.
A doctor may suspect a hip fracture from obvious signs of a broken hip such as bruising, deformity, and swelling. However, in order to confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may order imaging and other tests such as an X-ray, MRI and CT scans, and a bone scan.
Managing Hip Fractures
Treatment for hip fracture can vary. The doctor usually considers the patient’s age and overall physical health.
Nonsurgical treatment may be considered for patients who are too ill or are confined to a bed before the injury happened.
Patients who qualify for nonsurgical treatment may be placed on traction to keep the affected site immobile. These patients are often recommended for periodic X-rays to make sure that their fracture isn’t getting worse. They are also constantly monitored for possible complications of prolonged immobilization such as infection, formation of blood clots, bed sores, pneumonia, and nutritional wasting.
For patients who are healthy enough to undergo surgery, the procedure is done as soon as the diagnosis of hip fracture is confirmed. The type of surgery depends on the location of the fracture as well as the severity of the patient’s condition.
The two most common surgical treatment for hip fractures are hip repair surgery and hip replacement surgery.
Hip repair surgery (also called internal fixation) is recommended if the bones can still be lined up properly. In this procedure, the doctor uses plates, screws, or rods to hold the bones together while they heal.
If the fractured bones can’t be lined up, the doctor will recommend the hip replacement surgery. It involves replacement of part (partial hip replacement) or all (total hip replacement) of the joint with artificial parts.