What To Expect While Recovering From A Hip Fracture

By Dr. Jonathan R. Mallen

A hip fracture is a common injury that can occur in older patients as the bone is weakened by osteoporosis. Most commonly, the hip will break as a result of a fall, although some patients report that their leg “gave out” and broke. When a hip fracture occurs, patients will often be unable to walk, and will need to be brought to an emergency room by an ambulance. Once the fracture is assessed, surgery will most likely be required to repair the break in the bone. A thorough medical evaluation is required prior to surgery to ensure that the patients are healthy enough to tolerate the surgery and minimize potential risks. Consultation from specialists like cardiologists, pulmonologists, and others, may also be required based on the patient’s medical condition.

Not all fractures are the same, and there are different surgical techniques to repair the fracture based on type of hip fracture. Most hip fractures can be repaired with minimally invasive techniques.  All techniques share the same ultimate goal—to allow the patient to try to get up and walk as soon as possible. The healing process after surgery will involve physical therapy to help patients get out of bed, build strength and balance.

Patients recovering from hip surgery will need to take extreme care and caution to avoid falling to reduce the risk of re-injuring the area. Hip fractures and subsequent surgery can be stressful to body, so patients will need to remain in the hospital after surgery for a few days for observation and monitoring. To lessen the risk of blood clots that can travel to the lungs, blood-thinning medicines are commonly used after surgery. Routine blood tests will be done after surgery, and some patients may require a blood transfusion before, during or after surgery based on the test results and overall medical condition.

After the surgery, patients should expect to begin physical therapy. Rehabilitation of the hip will strengthen the muscles surrounding the fracture, and improve balance and coordination. Proper physical therapy is vital to the recovery process and to allow for the return of a normal routine.  Beginning with simple chair exercises, the rehabilitation will progress to stepping, walking and stair climbing. Walking with a crutch or walker will assist with the initial steps and possibly thereafter. Over time patients may switch to a cane, and as they improve begin walking without assistive devices.  Unfortunately, not every patient will achieve the same recovery. Older patients will need assistance with daily activities such as cooking, bathing and walking in the immediate post-operative setting.  Patients should remain under the care of a family member, friend or trained professional during the recovery period.

Although there have been many advancements in minimally invasive surgical techniques and medical management of patients, hip fracture surgeries remain as complex procedures which can cause long lasting consequences. To avoid a hip fracture, proper nutrition and exercise are important.  Even more important is the prevention of falls. We recommend yearly check ups with your general physician to evaluate and minimize potential causes of falls, such as side effects or interactions of other medications that patients may be taking. Ensuring a safe home environment is important –reduce tripping hazards such as loose rugs or wires, and ensure appropriate lighting. It is also important to identify other medical, neurological or cognitive issues that may increase a patient’s risk of falling.  When a hip fracture does occur, we ensure proper care of our patients through collaboration with medical consultants and appropriate specialists, careful surgical procedures, and rigorous physical therapy with trained and qualified staff.

 

For more information on hip procedures, please visit https://www.osaliortho.com/hip.php#mn-main

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