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A Comprehensive Guide to Hip Fracture Surgery and Recovery


Suffering from a hip fracture can be a life-altering event. But with the right knowledge and support, the journey toward recovery becomes more manageable. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through every step of the process, from understanding hip fractures and surgical options to navigating the recovery phase. 

Whether you are a patient or a caregiver, this article aims to provide you with valuable insights, practical tips, and encouragement as you embark on the path to healing and regaining mobility.

What is a hip fracture?

A hip fracture refers to a break or cracks in the proximal end of the femur (thigh bone) near the hip joint. It is a common injury, often seen in older adults, especially those with osteoporosis or weakened bones. Hip fractures can significantly impact mobility, independence, and quality of life. 

There are different types of hip fractures, including:

  • Intracapsular fractures – these fractures occur within the joint capsule of the hip. It can either be a femoral neck fracture or subcapital fracture.
  • Intertrochanteric fractures – these fractures happen in the region between the greater and lesser trochanters of the femur. They are typically located farther down the femur, away from the hip joint.
  • Subtrochanteric fractures – these fractures occur below the lesser trochanter of the femur, closer to the middle or lower part of the thigh bone. They are less common than the other two types.

Hip fractures typically occur due to trauma, falls, aging, and genetics. It can also happen as a result of underlying bone health issues, such as osteoporosis, cancer, and hyperparathyroidism. 

What are the common symptoms of a hip fracture?

The symptoms of a hip fracture can vary depending on the location and severity of the fracture. Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • Sudden, sharp, and intense pain in the hip or groin area.
  • Difficulty putting weight on the affected leg.
  • The injured leg may appear shorter or rotated outward. 
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Restricted the range of motion in the hip joint
  • Difficulty sitting, crossing the legs, or performing activities involving hip movement.

It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect a hip fracture since early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for successful recovery. 

An orthopedic specialist will perform a thorough evaluation, which may include physical examination, imaging tests (X-rays, CT scans, or MRI), and other diagnostic measures to confirm the presence of a hip fracture.

Is surgery always necessary for a hip fracture?

Surgery is typically the primary treatment for hip fractures, especially in cases where the fracture is displaced or if it’s intracapsular and intertrochanteric. Surgery aims to realign and stabilize the fractured bones to promote proper healing and restore mobility.

Additionally, these types of fractures have a higher risk of poor healing or complications if left untreated or managed non-surgically. 

However, there are certain cases where conservative management may be considered. Some examples include non-displaced fractures or patients who are frail or have significant medical comorbidities that make surgery risky.

It’s important to consult with an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip fractures to determine the most appropriate course of treatment based on individual circumstances and the specific characteristics of the fracture.

How is hip fracture surgery performed?

Several types of surgery are used to treat hip fractures, depending on the location and characteristics of the fracture, as well as the patient’s overall health and other factors. The main surgical approaches for hip fracture treatment include:

Internal Fixation

This surgical technique involves using implants such as screws, plates, nails, or rods to stabilize the fracture and promote proper healing. 

The specific type of internal fixation used may vary based on the fracture pattern and the surgeon’s preference. Common internal fixation procedures include:

  • Hip pinning

In this procedure, screws or pins are inserted into the fractured bone fragments to hold them in place. It is commonly used for intracapsular fractures, such as femoral neck fractures.

  • Intramedullary nailing 

This technique involves inserting a metal rod (nail) into the femoral canal to stabilize the fracture. It is often used for intertrochanteric or subtrochanteric fractures.

Hip Replacement (Arthroplasty)

A partial or total hip replacement may be performed in certain cases, especially when the fracture is displaced, and the patient has pre-existing joint conditions. 

This involves removing the damaged parts of the hip joint, such as the femoral head and socket, and replacing them with prosthetic components.

  • Hemiarthroplasty

This procedure involves replacing only the femoral head with a prosthetic component while retaining the natural hip socket (acetabulum). It is commonly used for femoral neck fractures.

  • Total hip arthroplasty

In this procedure, both the femoral head and the acetabulum are replaced with prosthetic components. It may be performed for certain types of fractures or in cases where pre-existing joint conditions are present.

Each surgical approach has its own advantages and considerations, and the choice of procedure depends on factors such as the fracture type, patient’s age, bone quality, and overall health status. 

Frequently asked questions about hip fracture surgery and recovery

How long does the hip fracture surgery procedure typically take?

Simple procedures, such as hip pinning or intramedullary nailing, may be relatively quick and usually take 1 to 2 hours. These procedures involve stabilizing the fracture with screws, nails, or other implants.

In more complex cases or when a total hip replacement (arthroplasty) is performed, the surgery may take longer. Total hip replacement surgery can take around 2 to 3 hours, as it involves removing the damaged parts of the hip joint and replacing them with prosthetic components.

What is the expected recovery time after hip fracture surgery?

In general, the initial phase of recovery involves the immediate postoperative period, where the patient will stay in the hospital for a few hours or days to ensure stability, manage pain, and monitor for any complications.

After discharge from the hospital, the patient will continue their recovery and rehabilitation at home or in a rehabilitation facility. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in regaining strength, mobility, and independence. 

The timeline for recovery milestones can vary, but here’s a general overview:

  • First few weeks

The initial weeks after surgery focus on pain management, wound healing, and early mobilization. Weight-bearing may be limited or avoided initially, and assistive devices like crutches or walkers may be used.

  • 4 to 8 weeks

By this stage, the patient typically progresses to partial weight-bearing and continues with physical therapy to improve strength, balance, and mobility. Rehabilitation exercises may be expanded to include more challenging movements.

  • 8 to 12 weeks

Most patients are gradually transitioning to full weight-bearing and working towards regaining normal walking patterns. Physical therapy focuses on strengthening the hip and leg muscles, improving the range of motion, and restoring functional abilities.

  • 12 weeks and beyond

At this point, patients continue to make progress in their recovery, with ongoing physical therapy to optimize strength, flexibility, and mobility. 

The timeline for achieving maximum recovery and returning to pre-injury activities can vary from several months to up to a year or more, depending on the individual and their specific circumstances.

Is hip surgery an outpatient procedure?

It’s important to note that each case is unique, and there may be certain rare instances where specific circumstances allow for a same-day discharge after hip fracture surgery. These situations depend on factors such as the type of fracture, the patient’s overall health, and the availability of a suitable support system at home. 

The decision for same-day discharge would be made by the medical team based on careful evaluation and ensuring the patient’s safety and well-being.

Raleigh Orthopedic Surgery Center: Your Premier Destination for Orthopedic Care

Are you in need of an exceptional outpatient orthopedic clinic in the Raleigh area? Look no further than Raleigh Orthopedic Surgery Center, where we are dedicated to providing top-quality orthopedic care in a patient-centered environment.

At ROSC, we take pride in our modern, state-of-the-art facility with cutting-edge technology and advanced surgical equipment. Our center is staffed with highly skilled and experienced Raleigh orthopedic surgeons who specialize in a wide range of procedures, such as:

Raleigh Orthopaedic Surgery Center is both the largest and most modern ambulatory surgery facility in Eastern North Carolina to specialize exclusively in orthopedics. Our patients receive outstanding patient satisfaction, superior clinical outcomes, and reduced costs. 

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.