Hip fracture 


Hip operation: animation

This detailed animation explains how a hip replacement is done and why it would be needed.

Media last reviewed: 11/07/2013

Next review due: 11/07/2015

The hip joints

Your hip joints attach your thigh bones (femurs) to your pelvis.

Your hip joints are ball-and-socket joints:

  • The ball is the rounded top part of the femur
  • The socket is the cup-shaped part of the pelvic bone that the rounded end of the femur sits inside

A hip fracture is a fracture (crack or break) in the top end or 'neck' of the femur, nearest the hip joint. The fracture can either be:

  • intracapsular (in the part of the femur inside the socket of the hip joint)
  • extracapsular (in the part of the femur outside the socket of the hip joint)

Hip fractures are cracks or breaks in the top of the thigh bone (femur) close to the hip joint.

It is sometimes referred to by doctors as a proximal femoral fracture.

Symptoms of a hip fracture include:

  • not being able to lift, move or rotate (turn) your leg
  • being unable to stand or put weight on your leg, although in some cases this is possible
  • a shorter leg, or your leg turning outwards more on the injured side

If you think you have fractured your hip, you will need to get to hospital as soon as possible. This is likely to mean calling 999 for an ambulance. Try not to move while you are waiting for an ambulance and keep warm.

Hip fractures are normally the result of a fall. A fall can cause a hip fracture if the bones are weak due to osteoporosis. Around 3 million people in the UK have osteoporosis.

Read more about the causes of a hip fracture and preventing hip fractures.

Treating a hip fracture

Hip fractures are almost always treated with surgery. About half of all cases require a partial or complete hip replacement (a surgical procedure to replace the hip joint with an artificial version). The rest need surgery to fix the fracture with plates and screws or rods.

Learn more in treating a hip fracture.

Recovering from surgery

After surgery, a rehabilitation programme that includes physiotherapy will be used to help recovery. This will involve different healthcare professionals, including occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

Rehabilitation is important for a successful recovery. There are dedicated rehabilitation units, called geriatric orthopaedic rehabilitation units (GORU), for older people with orthopaedic conditions.

Read more information about recovering from a hip fracture.

The right rehabilitation programme may help older people get back on their feet after surgery. Despite this, after a hip fracture some older people may:

  • not regain the ability to move
  • no longer be able to live independently in their own homes

Read more about complications of a hip fracture.

The National Osteoporosis Society estimates that around 1,150 people die every month in the UK as a result of hip fractures. 

How common are hip fractures?

Hip fractures are more common in older people, mostly occurring in people who are around 80 years of age. They are four times more common in women.

It is estimated that by the year 2016, there will be around 117,000 hip fractures a year in the UK.

Page last reviewed: 06/07/2012

Next review due: 06/07/2014


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