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Hip Fractures: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments

Written by Chloe Clark
 about the author
6 minute readLast updated April 20, 2023
Reviewed by Amanda LundbergAmanda Lundberg is a nurse with over 10 years of experience in clinical settings. She is an expert in family medicine as well as various specialties. Her holistic approach to health focuses on wellness and preventative care. She now writes content for health and wellness brands under her company name, Locksley Content.

As a loved one gets older, their chances of experiencing a hip fracture increase considerably. In many cases, surgery will be required after a hip fracture. In addition to being painful, surgery can cause complications, especially if a fracture is left untreated for too long. Knowing the symptoms of a hip fracture can help your loved one avoid causing additional damage after a fall has occurred. It’s important to understand possible surgery dangers and the surgery recovery process so that you can help your loved one.

Key Takeaways

  1. Hip fractures in seniors can occur even after minor falls. Knowing the symptoms to look out for is essential for prompt treatment.
  2. Hip fracture treatment in the elderly usually involves surgery. This may include surgery to repair the bone or hip replacement surgery.
  3. Preparing before a surgery can help reduce the risk of complications. This includes arranging for in-home care, preparing their home for comfort and safety, and pre-scheduling follow-up appointments.
  4. Hip replacement recovery time for the elderly can depend on a few factors. While full recovery typically takes around three months, this depends on overall health and adherence to a doctor’s guidelines.

Symptoms of a hip fracture

Every year over 300,000 seniors are hospitalized for hip fractures. Bones tend to get more fragile with age, and the chances of breaking a hip increase. Women are also more likely to experience a hip fracture than men due to osteoporosis, a disease where bone density and strength decrease.[01]
Sometimes even minor falls can lead to bone fractures. Hip fractures can be serious, so if your loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms below, they should seek immediate medical care. The longer a hip fracture is left untreated will raise the likelihood of complications arising.
Symptoms of a hip fracture can include the following:
  • Inability to stand up and/or walk after a fall
  • Pressure or weight on an injured leg causing pain, such as during standing up
  • Bruising and/or swelling around the hip and pelvis
  • Severe pain that radiates from the hip or groin areas (Remember that everyone’s pain tolerance is different, so even minor discomfort sometimes warrants a visit to the doctor.)
  • Changed appearance in the injured leg, such as the leg appearing shorter than the non-injured leg or the injured leg appearing to turn out or splay slightly [02]
Diagnosis typically involves an X-ray alongside a physical examination by a health care provider. In some cases, an MRI may be needed for hairline fractures, which are less common and harder to detect.

Types of hip fracture

There are two main types of hip fracture: femoral neck fracture and intertrochanteric.
  • Femoral neck fractures occur when the break is located one or two inches from the hip joint. This type of fracture is more common in those with osteoporosis and can sometimes impede blood flow in the area.
  • Intertrochanteric hip fractures occur further from the joint, usually three to four inches. This fracture is less likely to cause blood supply issues and is typically easier to repair. [03]

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Hip fracture treatment in the elderly

Receiving treatment for a hip fracture as soon as possible is a large factor in avoiding long-term complications and mobility issues. It’s essential to have your loved one see a doctor to diagnose and make a treatment plan as soon as a fracture is suspected.

Treatment types

Hip fracture treatment for seniors will typically involve either surgery to repair the bone or hip replacement surgery. These treatments will depend on a variety of factors, such as where the fracture is located in the bone, how severe the break is, whether blood supply to the hip is impeded by the injury, and whether the bone is still properly aligned or has become displaced. A doctor will also take a patient’s age and any underlying health conditions into consideration when making their recommendation for treatment.
  • Repairing the bone will typically involve metal screws being used to hold the bone together as the fracture heals. Depending on the severity of the break, a metal plate may be used as well.
  • Partial hip replacement may be used in some cases. This is usually when the hip joint does not need to be replaced and there are extenuating factors such as age or illness that may impact recovery.
  • Total hip replacement replaces the entirety of the upper femur and hip joint of the pelvic bone with metal or ceramic pieces. This type of hip replacement usually increases the likelihood of long-term improvement and retaining independent mobility. [04]

Preparing for hip surgery

Preparing for any surgery can be stressful. A way to reduce anxiety about upcoming surgeries is to ensure that your loved one fully understands the procedure. Making a list of questions and concerns for their doctor and/or surgeon to answer can be especially helpful.
Additionally, setting up a recovery space ahead of time is essential. If your loved one will be living at home, this may involve setting up a bedroom downstairs if they typically sleep upstairs, adding handrails or grab bars to strategic areas of high movement around the house, and ensuring that walking areas are clear of any tripping hazards. If you or another relative are unable to live with your loved one during this time, it may be beneficial to hire an in-home caregiver who can help assist them with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, going to the toilet, and getting dressed. Using a meal delivery service and weekly cleaning service can also simplify life after surgery.
If your loved one might need to stay in an assisted living community or a nursing home while recovering, this should be addressed ahead of time when possible.
Finally, try to help your loved one schedule any follow-up appointments and required therapy appointments prior to surgery. Their doctor should go over pre- and post-surgery plans with your loved one.

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What to expect during surgery

Hip surgeries involve anesthesia, so a patient will not be awake during the procedure. The surgery typically involves an incision, so they will need post-surgery wound care to ensure it heals properly. This type of surgery usually takes around two hours.[05]
Hip surgery is considered an in-patient procedure, so your loved one will spend some time in a hospital room for recovery. The amount of time will vary depending on their age, health, the type of hip surgery, and if any complications arise during surgery. On average, most people spend two to three days in the hospital.[06]


With any surgery, there will be a risk of complications. Understanding these risks and what to look out for post-surgery are necessary for a healthy recovery. Your loved one’s surgeon will discuss potential complications.
Blood clots forming during and after the surgery and post-operative infections are two of the more serious complications that can occur. If your loved one develops a fever, has pain or swelling in their lower legs, develops redness or pain around the incision, or has any chest pain or difficulty breathing, they should seek immediate medical attention.[07]
Some more long-term complications can include a change in the length of their injured leg, nerve damage around the area of the surgery, and unrelieved joint pain. When this is the case, their doctor may prescribe additional physical therapy, pain management solutions, or referral to a neurologist.[07]

Post-surgical care

Full hip surgery recovery time for the elderly relies on physical therapy, avoiding reinjuring the hip, adhering to any post-surgery recommendations from your loved one’s doctor, and their general age and overall health. If your loved one has osteoarthritis or a similar bone condition, recovery time may involve additional recommendations from their doctor.
On average, full recovery takes around three months. Your loved one will be prescribed physical therapy, which will begin during their hospital stay. Physical therapy may be prescribed by your loved one’s doctor for even longer than this period, depending on how they are healing.[08] They may also need a walker or other mobility aid while they recover.[09]
While full recovery after a hip surgery is likely, your loved one may still need additional care and support. Talking to them about what they need will help them feel confident that you can tackle these new challenges together. Our Senior Care Advisors can also help you and your loved one determine the best options for receiving post-surgery support.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, September 20). Hip fractures among older adults.

  2. Mayo Clinic. (2022, May 5). Hip fracture: Symptoms and causes.

  3. Stanford Medicine. Types of hip fractures.

  4. Mayo Clinic. (2022, May 5).Hip fracture: Diagnosis and treatment.

  5. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (2020, April). Hip replacement surgery.

  6. National Library of Medicine. (2021, July 28). Hip or knee replacement—in the hospital after.

  7. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Hip replacement surgery.

  8. Mayo Clinic. (2022, April 22). Hip replacement.

Meet the Author
Chloe Clark

Chloe Clark is a copywriter for OurParents. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, with a background in education and publishing. She has over a decade’s experience in writing for print publications and websites.

Reviewed byAmanda Lundberg

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