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Breaking Through On Hip Fractures

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As men and women age, bones become more brittle and prone to breakage. Hip fractures rank among the most common injuries among elderly Americans—and one of the most dangerous About one third of all senior adults—women, in particular—experience hip fracture, and if not properly treated, can lead to serious medical conditions, even death.

A number of factors contribute to hip fracture in aging adults. Diet, tobacco and alcohol use, existing medical conditions and even other medications can lead to brittle bones, which can break more easily. While the old “fallen and I can’t get up” adage has become a pop-culture joke, for the elderly, falling is no laughing matter. As men and women age, coordination becomes less precise. Vision can suffer, as can a sense of balance. Falling therefore becomes more common, and when combined with brittle bones, can result in easy hip fractures. Adults often recognize hip fracture as soon as it occurs, as they often prevent a fallen adult from standing, and cause tremendous pain.

Treatment of hip fractures

Fortunately, medical science has discovered sound treatment methods for hip fractures, if recognized right away. Breakage usually occurs in one of two places in the hip: either the ball of the “ball and socket” joint, or in the bony protrusion of the side of the bone. Both kinds of hip fractures can cause serious medical problems, even death, if left unattended. Blood clots or infections can occur, which can become life threatening in elderly adults with weakened immune systems. In most cases, hip fracture requires replacement via surgery.

Following surgical replacement of a fractured hip, recovery becomes a delicate process. Blood clots and infections can still occur, as can life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia. After surgery, a typical hospital stay lasts about a week, during which physical therapy begins. Therapists work to help an adult regain balance and begin walking again. Age and other factors play a role in the recovery period, and some older adults might need to use a cane or walker to retain mobility. While some will only need a crutch immediately after surgery, others will require a walking aid for the rest of their lives. Therefore, proper treatment and care are of utmost importance in helping an adult retain quality of life.

While a common injury among elderly adults, aging men and women can take steps to avoid hip fractures and the need for hip replacement. Places in the home should boast proper lighting, while slippery areas like bathrooms and stairwells should have some kind of slip-resistant mats and hand rails. Carpets in the house should tack to the floor, while light switches, and frequently used household objects should all be easily accessible. If hip fractures do occur, patients should seek immediate treatment to ensure a healthy recovery, and avoid life-threatening complications that may arise.

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