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Hip fracture

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

A hip fracture is a break in the thigh bone (femur) around the hip joint. Hip fractures are most common with increasing age as the strength of our bones decreases and our risk of falls increases.

Hip fractures most often occur following a simple trip or fall while standing or walking, and it commonly affects the neck of the femur, so you might see doctors write #NOF (fractured neck of femur) as shorthand. A hip fracture is possible if you cannot stand on the injured leg, that leg appears shorter or turned outwards, and there's significant bruising and swelling around your hip.

Hip fracture risk factors

Many risk factors can contribute to causing a hip fracture; these include increasing age, women being post-menopausal, smoking, medications that reduce bone density, a poor diet, and poor balance or poor eyesight that makes you at higher risk of falls.

You can reduce your risk of hip fractures by optimizing your bone health. This includes a well-balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking and excess alcohol. Ensure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D from your diet and supplements, if necessary, and stick to a healthy weight - bones can become weaker if you are underweight and under strain with obesity.

If you are unsure if you are at risk of a hip fracture, your doctor will be able to assess your bone health.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have fallen and are concerned you have suffered a hip fracture, you should seek urgent attention. You will usually need to call 911 to ask for an ambulance.

What will my doctor do?

A doctor will examine you at the hospital, and if there is a concern for a hip fracture, you will have an X-ray and various other tests. If a hip fracture is confirmed, specialists will admit you and see you.

Most cases of hip fracture are treated with surgery. Surgery for a hip fracture is usually prioritized within 36 to 48 hours of your injury. Surgery can involve the fixation of your fracture with a combination of plates and screws or metal rods, or you can be treated with a partial hip replacement. Surgery for a hip fracture aims to relieve your pain and enable you to get back on your feet as soon as possible.

How long will recovery take?

This can take several weeks to months. During your initial recovery in the hospital, you will be seen by a rehabilitation team of physiotherapists and occupational therapists. You will stay in the hospital until you are well enough and it is safe to go home.

In addition to treating your hip fracture, your hospital medical team will also aim to prevent future fractures. You will be offered lifestyle advice and may be started on medications to improve the strength of your bones. The rehabilitation team will also aim to help reduce the risk of further falls in the future.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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