Recovery from a hip fracture depends on the type of surgery a person has, as well as their mobility, age, and overall health. Many people regain functionality in 6–9 months with physical therapy and other interventions.
A hip fracture is a break in the femur, the upper area of the thighbone. Most hip fractures occur in older adults or as a result of accidents such as a vehicle collision or a fall from a ladder.
In any given year, more than 300,000 people in the United States experience a hip fracture. This can cause severe pain, and prompt treatment is necessary. Treatment often involves surgery and a recovery program.
This article examines why prompt treatment is important and discusses recovery from surgery. It explains how long recovery takes and how people can take care of themselves during this process.
A hip fracture can cause severe pain. Prompt treatment is important to relieve this pain as soon as possible.
Hip fractures also have a high mortality rate. Mortality rates within a year of experiencing a hip fracture are
Timely treatment, such as surgery and rehabilitation, can also help reduce the length of a person’s hospital stay. This can be especially beneficial to older people, as it can help them avoid:
In hip fracture surgery, surgeons will either repair the fracture or replace all or part of the hip.
After surgery, doctors typically provide a person with a recovery or rehabilitation program to help them regain mobility and independence as quickly as possible.
The length of a person’s hospital stay after surgery will depend on their condition and level of mobility. In people who are generally healthy, the hospital stay is typically around 1 week.
On the day after surgery, a multidisciplinary healthcare team will begin to work with the person.
Physical and occupational therapists will help the person begin moving as soon as possible to reduce the risk of complications such as blood clots and pneumonia. They will provide exercises and advice about how much weight a person can put on their leg.
Early mobilization can
- moving from a sitting to a standing position
- getting in and out of bed
- walking with an assistive device such as a walker
Physical and occupational therapists will also instruct the person on how to manage day-to-day activities during recovery, such as dressing and bathing.
Healthcare professionals will work with the person to reduce their pain. They will usually administer IV pain medication in the first few hours after surgery and then switch to oral medications. These may include:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen
- a nerve block, which is an anesthetic or anti-inflammatory injection
After discharge from the hospital, a person may return home or enter a rehabilitation center for short-term care.
If a person enters a rehabilitation center, physical and occupational therapists will assist them with further exercises until they can walk independently and return home.
Some people may need an in-home physical therapist or caregiver to assist them with rehabilitation until they are strong enough to attend physical therapy at an outside facility.
Input from a dietitian
Proper nutrition during recovery can also aid in wound healing.
It is important for those recovering from a hip fracture to eat a diet that is high in protein and includes lots of fruit and vegetables.
Recovery time can vary from person to person.
A person with a complete hip replacement may be able to bear full weight immediately, while someone who has received an internal fixation may not be able to bear weight for several weeks.
The time it takes for a person to resume their usual activities can depend on:
- the type of surgery they had
- their overall health
- their level of mobility
- their age
- whether they have any cognitive impairment
A doctor will provide an individualized recovery program to continue at home, which will vary depending on their level of mobility and fitness.
A person should follow the instructions for physical activity that their physical or occupational therapist provides.
Physical activity may consist of:
- balance and strength training exercises
- non-weight-bearing exercises such as swimming
- weight bearing exercises such as walking
- exercise on the treadmill
A person should avoid alcohol during recovery and try to maintain a moderate weight to avoid putting stress on the healing joint.
A doctor may advise a patient to take vitamin and iron supplements.
People should speak with a doctor or dietitian about what to include in their diet.
Individuals recovering from hip surgery should take all medications as their doctor prescribes. These may include:
- opioid pain medication
- non-opioid pain medication
- stool softeners
- blood thinning medication
- anti-nausea medication
To care for their wound at home, a person should:
- Keep the wound area dry and clean, and follow the instructions from a healthcare professional. A person will generally not need to remove a wound dressing for 7–10 days.
- Follow the doctor’s instructions regarding showering or bathing. While wound dressings are usually waterproof, a doctor will advise on how long a person should wait before washing.
Ice and elevation
People can experience swelling for up to 6 months after surgery for a hip fracture.
To reduce swelling, a person can slightly elevate their leg by placing a pillow or rolled blanket underneath it and apply an ice pack. People should avoid applying ice directly to the skin and should instead wrap a thin cloth around the ice pack first.
To reduce the risk of injury after surgery, a person should:
- avoid strenuous activity
- face the affected leg forward and keep it in front while they sit or stand
- use a high barstool in the kitchen to avoid bending
- apply heat before exercise
People should contact a doctor if they experience symptoms of an infection or a blood clot.
Symptoms of infection include:
- drainage from the wound
- tenderness, redness, or swelling of the wound
- worsening pain during rest and activity
Symptoms of a blood clot include:
Hip fractures commonly occur after older adults fall. These fractures have a high mortality rate and can cause severe pain. Prompt treatment is important.
Treatment for hip fractures usually involves surgery. A surgeon may repair the fracture or replace part or all of the hip joint. After surgery, physical and occupational therapists will help a person regain mobility and begin movement as soon as possible to speed up recovery.
Recovery usually involves a rehabilitation program of exercise, pain medication, and ice and elevation to minimize swelling. A person should contact a doctor immediately if they notice symptoms of an infection or a blood clot.