Hip fracture: Broken bone in the hip, a key health problem among the elderly, usually due to a fall or other kind of trauma involving direct impact to the hip bone which has been weakened by osteoporosis. The part of the hip most often broken is the greater trochanter (the knobby end) of the femur (the thigh bone).
In older people the leading risk factors for falls and, hence, for hip fractures include weakness; gait and balance disorders; functional, visual or cognitive impairment; and the side effects of drugs; together with the presence of hazards in the environment such as icy pavements or objects on the floor.
More than 300,000 people 65 years old or older are hospitalized yearly because of hip fractures in the US. About a quarter survive for less than a year because of the fracture or its complications and most of those who survive have substantial reductions in in their ability to walk and their ability to function in daily life.
Exercise programs and inspection and control of hazards in the living environment significantly reduce the incidence of falls. Osteoporosis can be treated (with a variety of medications, such as estrogen, calcium, vitamin D, and bisphosphonates).
The use of impact-absorbing hip protectors for those at high risk for hip fractures appears to be dramatically helpful. Hip pads can eliminate up to 84% of hip fractures, according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine. This has been called "a breakthrough in fracture prevention."
- Kannus P et al. Prevention of Hip Fracture in Elderly People with Use of a Hip Protector. N Engl J Med 2000;343:1506-13.
- Rubinstein L. Hip Protectors -- A Breakthrough in Fracture Prevention. N Engl J Med 2000;343:1562-63.
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Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016