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Understanding Hips and Hip Fractures


As the population ages, the number of hip fractures that occur each year rises.

Hip Joint

The hip joint is a ball and socket type joint, uniting two separate bones, which allow us to walk and run. The hip joint is designed to be a stable weight bearing joint. The bones of the hip are the femur (thighbone) and the pelvis. The top of femur, shaped like a ball, is called the femoral head. The hip socket is called the acetabulum and forms a deep cup that surrounds the ball of the upper femoral head.

How Hip Fractures Happen?

Hip fractures most commonly occur from injury. In the aging population, an injury can result from something as simple as losing one’s balance and falling.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and are more likely to fracture. As a result, your bones may break from a minor fall or, in serious cases, even from bumping into furniture.

Some causes of osteoporosis may be related to:

  • Aging
  • Heredity
  • Lifestyle/Nutrition
  • Medications or other illnesses

Surgical Treatment of Hip Fractures

Treatment depends on the type of hip fracture and if surgery is needed, an orthopedic surgeon will discuss options for care.  

Metal Screws: Fracture that occurs through the neck of the femur, if they are still in the correct position, may require only two or three metal pins to hold the two pieces of the fracture together. This procedure, called hip pinning, allows patients to begin putting weight on the leg right after surgery. 

Metal Plate and Screws: Some hip fractures occur below the femoral neck in area called the interrtrochanteric region. These fractures are called intertronchanteric hip fractures. These hip fractures are the hardest type of fracture to treat. They involve more than one break and several pieces of broken bone must be held together. A combination of a plate on the outside of the bone and a large screw are used to hold the pieces in place. 

Intramedullary Nail: A combination of a rod on the inside of the bone and large screw are used to hold the pieces in place. This procedure allows you to begin bearing weight right after surgery. 

Artificial Replacement of the Femoral Head (Hemiarthroplasty): When the hip fracture occurs through the neck of the femur and the ball is completely displaced, there is a very high chance that the blood supply to the femoral head has been damaged. Most surgeons will recommend removing the femoral head immediately and replacing it with an artificial femoral head made of metal. This procedure is called hemiarthroplasty because only half of the joint is replaced and the socket of the hip joint is left intact.