A hip fracture is a break in the thighbone, or femur, at the hip joint. A hip fracture is a serious injury and requires immediate medical attention.
About 90 percent of hip fractures happen to people over age 60. A fall is the most common cause of a hip fracture among the elderly. In younger people, a hip fracture generally is the result of a car accident, a fall from a great height or severe trauma. A small percentage of people may have a hip fracture occur spontaneously.
Osteoporosis is the leading cause of hip fracture. Because women are more prone to osteoporosis than men, hip fractures are more common among women. Women experience about 80 percent of all hip fractures.
In addition to osteoporosis, other risk factors include:
- Excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeine
- Lack of physical activity
- Low body weight
- Tall stature
- Medications that cause bone loss
- Cigarette smoking
Almost all hip fractures fall into one of these two categories in relatively equal numbers:
- Femoral neck fracture. These fractures occur 1 to 2 inches from the hip joint and can be related to osteoporosis. This type usually cuts off the blood supply to the head of the femur, which can cause complications.
- Intertrochanteric hip fracture. These fractures occur 3 to 4 inches from the hip joint, do not interrupt the blood supply to the bone and may be easier to repair.
A stress fracture of the hip is a hairline crack in the femur that may not involve the whole bone. Overuse and repetitive motion can cause a stress fracture. The symptoms may mimic those of tendonitis or muscle strain.
Most people spend one to two weeks in the hospital after a hip fracture and may need to spend time at a rehabilitation facility. It usually takes about three months before you're ready to resume all activities. Physical therapy is an important part of the recovery process.
Because patients are immobilized for a long time while their fractured hip heals, they’re at greater risk for blood clots and infections such as pneumonia. People who fracture a hip are at greater risk for a second hip fracture.