A fracture (break in the bone) of the hip is a very common injury. This is usually the result of a fall from a standing height in the older individual, but it can also occur in younger patients. Most commonly, the fracture occurs in the femoral neck (the area of bone that joins the ball to the shaft of the femur bone). This fracture is usually treated with a partial or total hip replacement. The fracture can also occur in the area below the femoral neck called the intertrochantetic region of the femur. In this case, the fracture is usually repaired with a specially designed nail or plate.
- Pain over the outer upper thigh or in the groin
- Significant discomfort with any attempt to flex or rotate the hip
- Aching in the groin or thigh area
- The leg may appear to be shorter than the non-injured leg
Most femoral shaft fractures require surgery to heal. It is unusual for femoral shaft fractures to be treated without surgery. If the skin around your fracture has not been broken, your doctor will wait until you are stable before doing surgery. Open fractures exposed to the environment urgently need to be cleansed and require immediate surgery to prevent infection. For the time between initial emergency care and your surgery, your doctor will place your leg either in a long-leg splint or in skeletal traction. This is to keep your broken bones as aligned as possible and to maintain the length of your leg.
Skeletal traction is a pulley system of weights and counterweights that holds the broken pieces of bone together. It keeps your leg straight and often helps to relieve pain.
External fixation. In this type of operation, metal pins or screws are placed into the bone above and below the fracture site. The pins and screws are attached to a bar outside the skin. This device is a stabilizing frame that holds the bones in the proper position so they can heal.
Our orthopaedic trauma surgeons at Emory utilize these types of surgery to treat femur fractures:
- External fixation
- Intramedullary nailing
- Plates and screws
Most femoral shaft fractures take 4 to 6 months to completely heal. Some take even longer, especially if the fracture was open or broken into several pieces. You will lose muscle strength in the injured area. Physical therapy will help to restore normal muscle strength, joint motion, and flexibility.