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Hip fractures send thousands of people to the hospital each year. (Read about "Bone Fractures") According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, there are more than 300,000 hip fractures each year in the US, most occurring in older women. In fact, women over the age of 65 have a 1 in 5 chance of fracturing their hip at some point in their lives.
When we talk about a hip fracture, the bone that breaks is actually the upper femur, just below the hip joint. Normally, this is a strong bone. As we get older, however, we tend to lose bone mass, a condition called osteoporosis. (Read about "Age and Bone Loss") This loss of bone can accelerate in women once they go through menopause (Read about "Menopause"), which is why older women are most at risk of hip fractures. There are also a number of diseases such as Paget's disease of bone, bone tumors (Read about "Paget's Disease of Bone" "Bone Tumors - Benign") and osteoporosis that can result in weaker bones, which are more likely to fracture.
When someone does have a fracture of the femur bone, and the bone is still properly aligned, surgeons may insert a pin to hold the parts of the bone on either side of the break together. If the bone is not aligned properly or if there is a great deal of deterioration as a result of osteoporosis or arthritis (Read about "Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases" "Osteoporosis"), an artificial ball or ball and socket combination may be used. (Read about "Joint Replacement") The decision to use either a prosthesis or a total hip replacement depends on a number of factors, including the patient's age and the extent of deterioration of the bone. Rehabilitation usually involves working with a physical therapist. (Read about "Rehabilitation") Recovery time depends on the extent of the surgery (Read about "Anesthesia") and the patient's condition prior to the break. However, with proper rehabilitation, many patients are able to recover at least some degree of mobility. (Read about "The Hip")
Although some loss of bone is inevitable, the National Institutes of Health say there are things that can help keep bones strong so they don't fracture:
There are also safety measures you can take to help prevent falls. Talk with your doctor about medications that can alter your balance to see if a walking aid is necessary. Be especially cautious outdoors, watching out for uneven pavement or slippery street conditions. And be careful at home. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, the home is where most falls and injuries occur. (Read about "Accidental Falls") Using non-slip rugs, installing grab bars in the bathtub, and keeping floors clear of clutter can all help minimize your risk of falling at home. Be particularly cautious at night. Use a night light to illuminate the way to the bathroom. Given the high cost of risking a hip fracture, the time it takes to reduce your risk can be a good investment.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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