Hip fractures in the elderly

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A hip fracture, or the complete or partial break of the femur, is a common injury. However, it is more common in elderly individuals. 90% of hip fractures occur in people over the age of 65. As we age, our bones thin and become more prone to breaks. Elderly individuals are more likely to fall as they age due to the thinness of the bone, and therefore fall victim to more breaks and fractures. Every year, more than 300,000 people aged 65 and older are hospitalized for hip fractures, and more than 95% of these fractures are caused by a fall. Hip fractures are also more common in elderly individuals because they are more likely to develop a bone disease called osteoporosis, which makes the bones brittle and increases the risk of a hip fracture.

Hip Fracture Surgery

If an elderly person succumbs to a hip fracture, the most likely outcome is that surgery will be required. The operation generally takes about two to four hours and requires general or spinal anesthesia in the back to numb the patient below the legs. The specific type of surgery is dependent on the type of fracture sustained. If the fracture is in the neck of the femur, the surgery will likely include a hip-pinning procedure where the surgeon will insert screws to keep the bones stabilized in their correct position. If the injury sustained is an intertrochanteric fracture below the neck of the femur, the surgeon will repair the fracture with a plate and compression screws. Full hip replacement surgery may be necessary if the ball portion of the hip was damaged. This involves replacing the upper femur and socket in the pelvic bone with prostheses. It is also a good option if arthritis is an issue. Immediately after surgery, patients will undergo rehabilitation either at the hospital, an extended care facility, or at home.

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Prevention of Hip Fractures

According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 20 percent of patients who have a hip fracture, will have another one within two years. To help reduce the risk of another fracture, seniors should add more Vitamin D and calcium to their regular diet. There are also medications that can be taken to prevent another fracture. Bisphosphonates is FDA-approved to reduce the activity of cells that develop bone loss. This drug, however, should not be given to people with kidney problems. Other pharmaceutical products include parathyroid hormone, which is approved for post-menopausal women and men with osteoporosis, and calcitonin which promotes calcium regulation and bone metabolism.

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