by Kimberly Allen, RN
As we are now securely in the middle of winter there’s ice and snow covering the roads, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. This makes walking very dangerous, especially for seniors. The number of injuries from falling significantly increases in the winter as people are out walking on ice and snow. Hip fractures are serious injuries that frequently results in long term impairment as well as increased nursing home admissions and increased mortality.
In the US, there are at least 340,000 hospitalizations due to hip fractures and more than 90% are the result of falling. Most hip fractures occur in people 65 years of age and older and costs Medicare approximately $3 billion per year. And a significant percentage of deaths from falls are the result of complications that develop after a hip fracture. Hip fractures can also significantly reduce a persons independence as statistics show that 1 out of every 4 adults that were living independently before fracturing their hip need to stay in a nursing home for at least a year after their injury. The prevalence of hip fractures is significantly higher in women than men with 75% of all hip fractures occurring in women, The main reason for the disparity is that women lose bone density at a much faster rate than men. for the same reason hip fractures are 3 times higher in Caucasians than other ethnic groups.
Hip fractures most commonly occur because of a slip and fall, however they can also occur as a result of whats called “high velocity impact” like a car accident. However, accidents aside, should you slip and fall the first thing you’ll notice is an inability to move right after you fall and you’ll experience severe pain in your groin and hip. The leg on your injured side will be shorter and turned outward.
There are several types of hip fractures including femoral head fractures, femoral neck fractures, trochanteric fracture, and intertrochanteric fracture as well as subtrochanteric fracture, however, the majority are either femoral neck fractures or intertrochanteric fractures. Femoral neck fractures occur in the area where the “neck” of the femur meets the head of the femur. This area is contained in a “capsule” of fluid that lubricates and nourishes the joint. Intertrochanteric fractures occur between the neck of the femur and an area known as the lesser trochanter. The lesser trochanter is a bony prominence that provides an anchor site for the large muscles of your hip.
Treatment for hip fractures usually involves a combination of surgery, medications, and rehabilitation. The type of surgery depends on the location and severity of the fracture as well as your age and medical history. There are a variety of options ranging from replacing the entire joint to placement of screws and a plate to hold the bones in place while they heal. Your Dr can discuss which options are best for your individual needs. Post surgical rehabilitation is part of every hip fracture plan of care. Rehabilitation for hip fractures is extensive and in most cases requires the person to be admitted to a nursing home for approximately a month and in many cases longer. Your Dr will also prescribe medications to increase your bone density. these medications are known as biphosphonates can help prevent a future hip fracture and most can be taken orally.
The best way to prevent hip fractures is by preventing falls. The best way to prevent falls is by using extreme caution when walking on a slippery surface and use a cane to provide a little extra steadiness. Believe it or not you can even buy chains for your boots that will give you extra traction. make sure your home is safe also by adding grab bars in and out of the tub/shower as well as other areas that may need them. Be sure any railings you have are secured and add railing to any stairs that doesn’t have any, Also having your vision checked regularly and maximizing your vision can reduce your chances of falling. It’s also important to take measures to improve and maintain your bone health by exercising regularly and eating a healthy, nutritious diet.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.