Hip Fractures

Symptoms and Treatment of Broken Hips

fractured hip x-ray
A broken hip is when the head of the femur (round part) breaks off. WILLSIE / Getty Images

The hip is a joint that allows the leg to move forward and backward, as well as side-to-side. It consists of a ball (the head) at the top of the thigh bone (femur) inserted into a socket made from the bones of the pelvis. Usually, the term hip fracture refers to a break in the head of the femur.

Hip Fractures in the Elderly

It's possible to break a hip at any age, but it's much more likely to happen to the Medicare crowd.

Bones get less dense and more brittle as we age, making any fracture more likely as we get older. Hips take quite a beating in the later years because we're much more likely to fall as we age as well.

The best way to avoid a hip fracture is to take precautions to avoid falling.

Hip Fracture Symptoms

Hip fractures hurt. In some cases, that's the only symptom. Consider the possibility of a hip fracture in any older adult with hip pain after a fall, especially if he or she is unable to move the leg. A more complete list of hip fracture signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Inability to move
  • The injured leg is shorter than the uninjured leg
  • The injured leg is rotated: Depending on the exact type of injury, the injured leg can be rotated either toward or away from the uninjured leg

In almost every case there will be some sort of force that led to the pain, such as a fall or a car accident. Hip fractures can happen without any outside force -- called a spontaneous hip fracture -- but that's quite rare and usually the victim knows he or she has brittle bones.

Hip Fracture Treatment

First aid treatment for a hip fracture begins with calling 911. There isn't any definitive treatment that can be done at home, so the victim needs to be transported to the ER. Emergency crews have fancy lifting equipment to help the victim get off the ground easier, and paramedics can usually provide pain medication to help make the transport more bearable.

Until the ambulance arrives:

  • Follow any instructions given by the 911 operator
  • Make the victim as comfortable as possible: use pillows to cushion and position the injured leg
  • Don't give the victim anything to eat or drink

Hip fractures are serious at any age, but the younger and healthier the victim, the more serious the fracture. A hip fracture requires significantly more force (which causes more damage) in a young adult. No matter the age, don't hesitate to call 911.


"Hip Fractures." April 2009. Your Orthopaedic Connection. AAOS. 27 Nov 2009

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