Diagnosing a hip fracture 

As hip fractures often occur as a result of a fall, diagnosis usually takes place at a hospital.

Hospital assessment

After arriving at hospital with a suspected hip fracture, your overall condition will be assessed. The doctor carrying out the assessment may:

  • ask how you were injured and whether you've had a fall
  • ask you whether this is the first time you've fallen (if you've had a fall)
  • ask about any other medical conditions you have, such as a heart problem
  • ask whether you're taking any medication
  • assess how much pain you're in
  • assess your mental state – for example, if you also hit your head you may be confused or unconscious
  • take your temperature 
  • make sure you're not dehydrated (where the normal water content of your body is reduced)

Depending on the outcome of your assessment, you may be given:

  • painkilling medication
  • local anaesthetic injection near your hip
  • intravenous fluid (fluid through a needle into a vein in your arm)

The healthcare professionals treating you will make sure you're warm and comfortable. After a while, you may be moved from the emergency department to a ward, such as an orthopaedic ward.

Imaging tests

Imaging tests will be used to confirm whether your hip has been fractured. There are a number of tests that you may have, which are briefly described below.

X-ray 

X-rays are a type of radiation used to create an image of the inside of your body.

As X-rays are very effective at detecting problems with bones, such as fractures, an X-ray is likely to be the first imaging test you have.

MRI scan

magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may be used if the diagnosis is uncertain. MRI scans use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce a detailed image of the inside of the body. They're very effective at confirming even subtle hip fractures.

CT scan

computerised tomography (CT) scan may be used if you're not able to have an MRI scan, or if there's not one available quickly.


Page last reviewed: 18/07/2014

Next review due: 18/07/2016