September 01, 2011

Hip fracture

Regaining mobility

Hip fracture

The fear of fracturing a hipbone looms large for many older adults — and with a fair amount of justification. Each year, more than 300,000 hip fractures occur in the United States among those 65 and older. It's estimated that up to 20 percent of older adults who sustain a hip fracture die within a year of the injury. Others may experience a loss of mobility and independence.

However, the prognosis isn't always so dire. This is especially true the better your health is and the more mobile you are at the time of the fracture. The surgical procedures used to fix most hip fractures are usually very effective. Early rehabilitation is important, and for most people, the goal is to be on their feet — with help — within a day of surgery. Substantial recovery is common. And during the recovery process, it's important to take steps to prevent another hip fracture in the future.

Hips and slips

The hip is the largest ball-and-socket joint in the body and has great strength and stability. The "socket" of the joint is part of the pelvis, and the "ball" of the joint is the top end of the upper leg bone (femur).

Older adults are at risk of hip fractures for two main reasons:

  • With age, bone can gradually become weaker due to the bone-thinning process of osteoporosis. Women are especially susceptible...