Hip Fracture Types and Complications

A broken hip is a common injury, especially in older individuals with thinning bones. In the United States, hip fractures are the most common broken bone that requires hospitalization; about 300,000 Americans are hospitalized for a hip fracture every year. (A "broken hip" and a "hip fracture" mean the same thing.)

Xray of a broken hip
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Hip fractures in older people are most frequently caused by a fall—often by what may seem an insignificant fall. In younger patients with stronger bones, the more common causes of hip fracture include high-energy injuries such as car accidents or falls from a height. Hip fractures can also be caused by bone weakened from tumor or infection, a problem called a pathologic fracture.

Hip Fractures and Osteoporosis

A broken hip in older people is often partly the result of weakening bones from osteoporosis. Seniors who have osteoporosis are at a much higher risk of developing a hip fracture than someone without osteoporosis. Other risk factors associated with hip fracture are gender and race (women and white people have higher incidence rates), slightly built individuals, and those who have limited physical activity.

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes loss of bone mass; the composition of the bone is normal, but it is thinner than in normal individuals. With thinner, weaker bones, patients with osteoporosis are at much greater risk of developing a hip fracture from accidents such as falls.


Hip fractures are generally separated into two types of fractures:

  • Femoral Neck FracturesA femoral neck fracture occurs when the ball of the ball-and-socket hip joint is fractured off the top of the femur. Treatment of a femoral neck fracture depends on the age of the patient and whether the ball has been displaced.
  • Intertrochanteric Hip Fractures: An intertrochanteric hip fracture occurs just below the femoral neck. These fractures repaired more often than femoral neck fractures. The usual surgical treatment involves placement of a plate and screws or a rod and screws to stabilize the fractures.
  • Other fracture patterns: Other types of bone fractures near the hip joint may sometimes be referred to as a broken hip. Those most often sustained are pelvic insufficiency fractures. These fractures occur in the pelvic bone, not the femur (thigh bone), and typically are treated without surgery. One type of pelvic fracture is an injury to the hip socket itself, called an acetabular fracture. Although some of these injuries may be treated nonsurgically, more invasive treatment is sometimes necessary because they also involve the hip joint.

Treatment of a hip fracture almost always requires surgery. In some cases, such as with certain stress fractures of the hip, or in patients with severe medical problems that prevent surgical treatment, nonoperative treatment may be recommended. The type of surgery will depend on the type of fracture.


Complications are common in patients who sustain a hip fracture. One of the most important reasons for performing surgery on patients who have a hip fracture is to help prevent complications. The risk of complications such as pneumonia, bed sores, and blood clots are diminished the sooner postsurgical hip fracture patients are up and out of bed.

Mortality rates in the first year following a broken hip significantly higher than in those who have not had a hip fracture, and the rates are highest in older populations. The cause of mortality following a hip fracture is often due to blood clots, pneumonia, or infection. Furthermore, only about 25% of patients who sustain a broken hip return to their preinjury level of activity.

The majority of patients who sustain a hip fracture will require prolonged specialized care, such as a long-term nursing or rehabilitation facility. A patient who previously sustained a hip fracture is at higher risk of breaking their hip again. Focused rehabilitation and strengthening are the best treatments to get people back to their preinjury level of activity.

A Word From Verywell

One of the most important things you can do is to take steps to prevent a hip fracture. If you or a loved one has already sustained a broken hip, preventing future fractures is especially important. It is not uncommon for people to break their other hip or sustain other serious injuries resulting from a weakened bone after an initial hip fracture.

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Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hip fractures among older adults. Updated September 20, 2016.

  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Acetabular fractures. Updated February 2016.

  3. Katsoulis M, Benetou V, Karapetyan T, et al. Excess mortality after hip fracture in elderly persons from Europe and the USA: the CHANCES project. J Intern Med. 2017;281(3):300-310. doi:10.1111/joim.12586

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