Hip fractures are one of the most common injuries that affect older people in the United States. Typically the result of falls in patients over the age of 65, hip fractures become more likely with age due to bone degeneration, particularly related to conditions such as osteoporosis. Although fracturing the hip of a younger patient requires extreme forces, older people experience this injury as a result of relatively low-impact falls due to the weakened state of the hip.
Treatment of hip fractures depends on the type of fracture and the extent of the injury. In most cases, doctors will recommend surgery as soon as possible after diagnosis of a hip fracture. In very rare instances, certain types of hip fractures can be treated without surgery.
Receiving the correct treatment for a hip fracture, including appropriate rehabilitative care and recovery, is essential to ensuring the best possible functional and quality of life outcome. By learning more about hip fractures and the treatment options available, you can help yourself take an active role in your treatment.
We encourage you to get in touch with the Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America (OJRCA) team if you have any questions. We’re here to help you learn more as you read this informative guide.
Preventing Hip Fractures
The most important aspect of hip fracture treatment may be minimizing the risk of a fracture occurring in the first place. Even older people who have experienced a hip fracture are still at an elevated risk for experiencing a subsequent injury. Understanding and taking the steps necessary to prevent a hip fracture can have a tremendously positive impact on anyone.
To lower the risk of a hip fracture, people over the age of 65, or those who are younger, should do the following:
- Take steps to maintain bone health — While no one can control the natural aging process, or genetic factors that contribute to bone density loss, there are things anyone can do to promote stronger bones. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a diet rich in vitamin and calcium are two of the most important steps anyone can take. Additionally, doctors may recommend supplements and even certain medications that support bone health.
- Get regular exercise — Along with weight management and healthy eating, staying active is another lifestyle choice associated with healthy and strong bones. Not only can low-impact exercise potentially slow down bone loss and build stronger supporting muscles, but it also can improve balance and coordination, which can help prevent falls among older people.
- Stay safe at home — Falls at home are the most common cause of hip fractures, so older people should take any possible prevention measures. Removing clutter, ensuring adequate lighting, removing slippery rugs and installing safety devices such as grab bars and handrails, especially in bathrooms, are key steps to take.
- Stay safe in the community — Falls in the community are another major source of hip fractures. Older people should wear slip-proof shoes and use a walking aid if recommended.
It is also beneficial to understand your family’s medical history in order to determine your particular risk of bone loss due to a condition such as osteoporosis. This can help focus any preventive measures you take.
Hip Fracture Treatment Depends on the Type of Fracture
The hip joint is where the top of the leg bone, or femur, joins with a socket in the pelvis, called the acetabulum. Although fractures to the acetabulum and pelvis do occur, they are more rare and commonly related to trauma related to a vehicle collision or high energy fall. The most common type of fracture to the hip joint occurs in the upper portion of the femur. Frequently experienced fractures to the upper femur include:
- Femoral neck fractures — This is the part of the femur that is just below the head, or ball, that fits into the hip socket.
- Intertrochanteric fractures — This part of the femur is just below the neck and is situated between two outcroppings of bone called the trochanters.
Hip fractures caused by minor falls in older people are typically immediately painful and require prompt medical attention. Patients will generally be taken to an emergency or urgent care facility and receive an examination and diagnostic imagery so the physician can make a diagnosis. In most cases, surgery will be performed within hours of the fracture if the patient is medically stable.
For femoral neck fractures that do not involve displacement, a surgeon can perform a procedure involving “in-situ pinning” to fix and stabilize the fracture and allow it to heal. Fractures involving displacement (where the bones have shifted from their normal position) were previously treated with a partial hip replacement that left the socket intact. This was done to avoid total hips because of failure rates and complications with total hips used to be so much higher.
Total hip replacement has become so much more durable and long lasting and is now a much more appropriate treatment for displaced femoral neck fractures for the vast majority of patients.
Intertrochanteric fractures are usually treated surgically with hardware including large metal rods placed inside the femur along with locking screws that help stabilize bone so the fracture can heal.
The Importance of Movement and Rehabilitation
When recovering from hip surgery, patients are encouraged to begin moving and start physical therapy and rehabilitation as soon as possible. Prolonged bed rest is associated with increased risk of blood clots, bed sores, muscle atrophy and other difficulties. It’s very important to follow all postoperative instructions and make every effort to complete rehabilitation programs.
Physical therapy and rehabilitation can increase the chances of a functional recovery that maximizes independence. Depending on the patient, physical therapy can be performed at an inpatient facility, outpatient facility or at home.
Reach out to OJRCA today to learn more
At OJRCA, we perform advanced procedures, including total hip replacement, at our state-of-the-art outpatient facility. Our procedures can help patients dealing with severe joint damage related to conditions such as arthritis regain function and relieve pain. To learn more about our treatment options and the patients we can help, contact us today.