Hip fractures tend to be more common as we get older. Research by doctors concluded that the lifetime risk of a hip fracture in a woman is 17.5 percent; for men, it’s six percent. Women have greater rates of osteoporosis than men, and thus the greater risk of fractures.
Osteoporosis is a degenerative condition where the bones tend to become more porous and sponge-like, leading to increased fragility. Hip fractures are generally considered to be the most devastating outcome of osteoporosis. In 1990, 1.66 million hip fractures were reported worldwide, a number that is predicted to rise to 6.3 million by 2050.
Let’s start with the most common reason for an older person to get a fracture is a fall, most commonly from a misstep or a loss of balance within the home. In fact, 90 percent of hip fractures in the elderly occur because of a fall from a standing position.
Osteoporosis and low bone density pose significant risk factors for morbidity and mortality in older adults. These conditions are characterized by poor bone strength and are associated with an increased risk of fractures from even slightly traumatic events, such as falls from standing height or lower. Vertebral fractures are the hallmark of osteoporosis, but hip and other fractures are also common.
Low bone density may be a silent condition until a complication occurs. Therefore, it is important to see your orthopedic surgeon immediately.
The loss of balance that precipitates a fall occurs because of weakness in hip girdle muscles, and/or generalized weakness due to illness, medication, and/or a prior stroke. To put it simply, the more fragility one has, the greater their chance of falling; the hip fracture is often the consequence of that debility. So, this weakness in itself, can be a major reason for the increased death rates seen among people with hip fractures.
The majority of displaced hip fractures will require surgery to repair. The surgery can be either a total hip replacement or a surgery to bring the misaligned pieces of bone together using metal screws, rods and plates. Surgeries are fraught with possible complications, leading to a greater risk of debility and even death. Complications include blood loss, cardiac arrest, stroke, problems with anesthesia, infection, and blood clots.
However, waiting too long to have a surgery for a hip fracture can also lead to prolonged bedrest, resulting in an increased chance of blood clots in the legs, bed sores, urinary tract infections, pneumonia and, again, death.
Today, increased attention is being given to the early diagnosis and treatment of low bone density, as well as the prevention of fractures.
To learn more about hip fractures and how to prevent them, call Watauga Orthopaedics at (423) 282-9011 to request an appointment, or schedule an appointment online.