What is a Hip Fracture?

The hip is essentially a ‘ball and socket’ joint – the ball being the top or end of the femur (thigh) bone and the socket being the part of the pelvis in which the ball moves to allow us to walk.

This is important as getting our patients back up on their feet and walking after a broken hip is the goal of everything we do on the hip fracture ward.

One thing that is often misunderstood is the term ‘fracture’ and ‘break’. They actually mean the same thing – a broken hip is a fractured hip and vice versa. A break is not worse than a fracture, they both mean the same thing.

As we get older, our bones get thinner and the area at the top of the thigh bone at the hip is a particular area at risk for breaks as the bones get thinner.

The commonest reason for hip fractures is osteoporosis or thinning of the bones and on the hip fracture unit, the staff will inform you and/or your relatives about osteoporosis during your time with us.

There are two main types of hip fracture – one in which the ball at the top of the femur is snapped off and one where the crack is a little further down the leg.

These breaks, whilst both being hip fractures, are treated differently. The first one (ball snapped off) is treated by removing the ball and putting a new ball in – either a half or full hip replacement – similar to what you have if you have arthritis and need an operation.

The second type  (a break in the bone a little further down) is treated by ‘fixing’ the break with screws, plates and / or nails – metal implants to hold the broken bits together whilst the body heals.

Either way, regardless of the break, the aims of surgery are to decrease the pain associated with a broken bone and to allow you to get up and walk.

Your consultant surgeon will discuss with you the type of break you have and the operation you need to either replace or fix the broken bit. Your surgeon will also go through with you the risks and benefits of undergoing surgery for a broken hip.