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HealthInfo Canterbury

Broken hip (fractured neck of femur)

Older woman fallen and hurtBroken hips or hip fractures are breaks in the top of the thigh bone (femur) close to the hip joint. They're sometimes also known as neck of femur or NOF fractures.

They're usually caused by a fall. In older people, a fall from standing is often enough to break a hip.

Younger people can also break their hip. In these cases, it's more likely to be caused by trauma such as falling off a bike or falling from a significant height. The denser bones of younger people mean that greater force is needed to break a bone as large as the hip bone.

Symptoms of a broken hip

Symptoms of a broken hip after a fall may include:

A broken hip won't necessarily cause bruising or prevent you from standing or walking.

If you're worried that you may have broken your hip, you need to go to hospital for assessment. Call 111 for an ambulance.

Diagnosing a broken hip

A doctor will be able to tell if they think you've broken your hip by examining your hips and legs. To confirm whether your hip is broken, you'll need to have a scan such as an X-ray.

If you've had a fall, the doctor will try and find out why so they can treat any underlying cause. As well as an accident, there may be a medical reason for falling, such as low blood pressure, a heart rhythm abnormality or fainting.

Treating a broken hip

Surgery is usually the best treatment for a broken hip.

In about half of all cases, a partial or complete hip replacement is needed. The other cases need surgery to fix the break with plates and screws or rods.

The type of surgery you have will depend on several factors, including:

Conservative treatment

Conservative treatment may be necessary if surgery isn't possible – for example, if someone is too frail to cope with surgery or if they didn't go to hospital straight after they broke their hip and it has already started to heal.

But it involves a long period of bed rest and isn't often recommended because it can:

Recovering from a broken hip

Once you're able to walk independently, get on and off the bed and use the toilet, recovering at home is usually the best option. Your hospital team can discuss the best options with you and your whānau (family).

Some people have persistent pain in their hip area after a break. If this is severe, you should see your general practice team for advice.

Reducing your risk of a broken hip

You can reduce your risk of breaking your hip by taking steps to prevent and if needed, treat thinning of your bones (osteoporosis).

You can also reduce your risk of falling by:

Find out more about preventing falls. If you're concerned about your risk of falls, you should discuss this with your general practice team.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created November 2022.

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Review key: HIHIL-240273