Medical Library: Hip – Fractures

A Hip fracture, also known as a broken hip, is a common injury, especially in elderly individuals. In the United States, hip fractures are the most common broken bone that requires hospitalization; about 300,000 Americans are hospitalized for a hip fracture every year.

In the elderly, hip fractures are most often caused by a fall of some sort, often a seemingly insignificant fall. A broken hip in an elderly person can be usually be explained by weak bones and osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes loss of bone mass; the composition of the bone is normal, but it is thinner than usual. Patients with osteoporosis are at much higher risk of developing a hip fracture than someone without osteoporosis.

In younger patients with stronger bones, more common causes of a broken hip include high-energy injuries such as car accidents. Hip fractures can also be caused by bone weakened from tumor or infection, known as a pathologic fracture.
Other risk factors associated with hip fracture are female sex, Caucasian race, slightly built individuals, and limited physical activity.

Hip fractures are generally separated into two types of fractures:

  • A femoral neck fracture occurs when the ball of the ball-and-socket hip joint is fractured off the femur. Treatment of a femoral neck fracture depends on the age of the patient and the amount of displacement of the fracture.
  • An intertrochanteric hip fracture occurs just below the femoral neck. These fractures are amenable to repair more often than femoral neck fractures. The usual surgical treatment involves placement of a plate and screws to stabilize the fracture.

Treatment of a hip fracture almost always requires surgery. In some cases, such as some stress fractures of the hip, or in patients who have severe medical problems that prevent surgical treatment, non-operative treatment may be recommended. However, most all hip fractures are treated with surgery. The type of surgery that is preferred depends on the type of fracture.