Each year in the U.S., over 300,000 people suffer a hip fracture, according to the CDC. These fractures are traumatic, meaning they usually result from a fall. In fact, hip fractures are caused by a fall 95% of the time.
“They’re most common in the population over 65 years old and caused by tripping or falling while standing,” said Dr. Tyler Dahl, orthopedic trauma surgeon at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “However, there are some young people that do get hip fractures. Those incidents are generally high energy, for example, car crashes or falls off of a roof or ladder.”
Certain risk factors can increase your chance of suffering a hip fracture.
“History of osteopenia or osteoporosis is probably the biggest risk factor,” Dr. Dahl said. “You’re also at risk if you have other health issues that can lead to falls due to balance issues or risks of becoming light-headed. Those can include heart issues, seizures and Parkinson’s disease, among others.”
Needing a walker or cane to walk can also predispose you to tripping and falling, which can increase the chance for a hip fracture. It is important to not have area rugs or other obstacles in your home that a foot, walker or cane could catch on and cause you to fall.
For people over 65, especially those who have had a hip fracture, it is important to have a provider check bone health and density. This can help prevent future fractures.
“It’s recommended to have a formal evaluation to see if there’s anything we can do to increase the bone density or at least slow down the loss of bone density,” Dr. Dahl said. “Common causes include thyroid issues and diet-related issues.”
If the cause is related to aging, there are different medications a provider could prescribe that work to prevent progression of osteoporosis or build back some bone density. Nutritionists can also suggest changes to diet that can help.
The goal of hip fracture care is pain management and to get the patient up and moving again. Typically hip fractures do need surgery and can be treated with screws or rods to repair the fracture. Sometimes a partial or full hip replacement is the best option.
“Regardless of the way that we treat them, the goal is to be able to have no restrictions after surgery,” Dr. Dahl said. “That means the ability to put weight on it right away, to move it any direction you want and to get physical therapy started as soon as possible so you can get out of bed and get moving.”
Physical therapy is almost always a part of the inpatient rehabilitation. It can also be a part of the outpatient rehabilitation depending on the patient and their overall strength and mobility needs prior to the injury.
“It can take a patient a few months to recover to the point they can move around independently again,” Dr. Dahl said. “Patients will continue to make improvements and feel better up to a year after surgery.”