What Are the Odds of Fully Recovering From a Broken Hip? (2022)

Hip fractures are among the most common types of broken bones, and once over the age of 65, a broken hip is the most common reason why people need fracture surgery. Unfortunately, this difficult problem often affects the most vulnerable and frail patients. While some common orthopedic injuries occur in more vigorous, active individuals, the majority of broken hips occur in more sedentary, frail people.

Because of this, many people who sustain these injuries, or their families, are concerned about the recovery process. Is a major surgery worthwhile? What are the chances of recovery? What is the best way to help an elderly person who has broken their hip?

What Are the Odds of Fully Recovering From a Broken Hip? (1)

Treatment of a Broken Hip

Almost all people who break their hip will require surgery to fix the problem. There are different treatment options that depend on the location of the fractured bone and the patient who is injured. The options essentially are to either repair the broken bone, or to replace all or part of the hip joint. Most fractures will have a preferred method of treatment, although in some situations your surgeon will make a recommendation where there may be more than one option for treatment.

Sometimes families will consider nonsurgical treatment of these injuries. While that may be an option for very frail or very sick patients, it is typically not a goodoption. Nonsurgical treatment is only considered for very specific fracture types, such asif the break is only on the pelvis side of the hip joint (and not the femur), then nonsurgical treatment may be possible. But most all hip fractures of the femur bone will require surgery. The problem with nonsurgical treatment of most types of broken hips is that moving a patient with a broken hip can be close to impossible. There are several problems with not being able to move a person who has been injured:

  • It may cause more problems.Being immobile can lead to a number of problems with people. The development of other medical conditions is one of the major problems with nonsurgical treatment of hip fractures. Immobile people are prone to developing pneumonia, blood clots, and bedsores. These conditionsare already issues for older people, and if you can't move someone, then the chance of developing one of these types of problems goes up significantly. For these reasons, even in very frail or very sick patients, repair of a hip fracture is typically recommended.
  • It can be difficult to care for people.Taking care of someone who can't move is very challenging. Simple tasks such as bathing and toileting someone who cannot move is difficult. While managing painful symptoms of a broken hip can be accomplished by having someone lie still, it is not reasonable to care for someone without moving them. Therefore, even when broken hips occur in people who are entirely dependent on others for support, they are typically repaired surgically to allow for this care to take place.

The surgical procedure used to repair a broken hip may vary depending on a number of factors. In general, fractures of the very top of the thigh bone, called the femoral neck, are treated with replacement. If the femoral neck fracture is not at all displaced (out of position), then a repair of the break may be considered. Fractures below the neck of the femur, called intertrochanteric or peritrochanteric fractures, are treated with surgical repair using rods, plates, or screws. As stated, the ideal way to fix a particular fracture may vary depending on the fracture pattern, surgeon preference, and the particular patient being treated.

Without an underlying cause, a hip fracture in the elderly is, by definition, osteoporosis. Patients who sustain one fragility fracture are at a significantly increased risk of sustaining another fragility fracture in the near future. For that reason, treating the osteoporosis is very important to help prevent future fractures from occurring.

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Optimal Recovery From Hip Fractures

The best way to recover from a hip fracture is to get moving as soon as possible. Immobility opens the door to the possibility of significant complications. For the reasons listed above (preventing pneumonia, blood clot, bedsores, etc.), it is critical to get patients up and moving as soon as possible after surgery. There are a number of ways to help accomplish this goal.

Most importantly, thesurgery should be performed soon after the injury. There is controversy about how soon the surgery should be performed, but ideally within 48 hours of the injury, and possibly sooner. Many hospitals are getting better equipped at getting these individuals with broken hips to an operating room on either the day of or the day after their injury.

There are situations where surgery has to be delayed, such as when there are other major medical issues that need to be addressed prior to a surgical procedure. Another common situation is when an individual on blood-thinning medication breaks their hip. The blood-thinning effects may need to be reversed prior to safely performing surgery.

The second step is to quickly get up and moving after the surgery. In the hours and days after surgery, the nursing staff and therapists will be working to get people up and moving. Even changing position and sitting up in a chair can help to prevent some of the complications that can occur in people with broken hips.

Chances of Recovery

Unfortunately, full recovery after a broken hip occurs in only about half of all people. The other half will have a decline in the function when compared to their pre-injury activity level. Sadly, almost one-quarter of people who break a hip don't live for a full year after their injury. While this group tends to represent the frailest people who break a hip, it is a startlingly large number.

Obviously, everyone wants to be in the 50 percentof people who do regain their full function. In order to do so, people will have to regain the following:

  1. Mobility: In order for joints to function properly, they need to move. A joint that is frozen in space may have good muscle tissue surrounding the joint, but without proper movement, those muscles cannot function properly. Mobility can be impaired by fracture healing, deformity, implanted hardware, and scar tissue formation.
  2. Strength: Restoration of muscle strength is critical after breaking one's hip. Unlike a hip replacement surgery recovery, where the muscle damage is minimal, the trauma of breaking a hip bone also damages muscle function significantly. In order to regain muscle function, it is critical to get the muscles working as soon as possible after surgery to prevent potentially permanent atrophy of the muscle tissue.
  3. Balance: Recovery of balance is critical not only to regain function but also to prevent the potential for further injury. Balance is critical to activity, and a decline in function is often the result of a loss of balance. The use of ambulatory aids (canes or walkers) can be helpful, but regaining proprioception and balance can help restore activity.

Full healing of a broken hip can take many months. Most fractures take 10-12 weeks for healing, and the muscle strength and mobility can take much longer. Typically, people get close to their full recovery within 6 months of the injury, but it can take up to a full year to achieve as much improvement as possible. That said, people who sustain a hip fracture should not wait for months or longer to be aggressive with their therapy. As time passes, the likelihood of regaining function steadily declines—the strongest gains are made early in the recovery process.

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On a positive note, many people who sustained a hip fracture do recover their preinjury level of activity and are able to return to their normal activities. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to make that type of recovery. Most people think of aging as a steady, gradual decline in function. The reality is that as people age, they much more commonly experience long periods of steady functional activity, with intermittent sharp declines in function. A hip fracture can be an event that initiates a sharp decline.

A Word From Verywell

Hip fractures are serious injuries, and while full recovery is possible, it is not always achieved. In fact, about half of people who sustain a broken hip will have an overall decline in function even when their bone is fully healed. For that reason, timely surgery, early rehabilitation, and patience for a long recovery are important, and hopefully, you or your loved one will be able to get back to all of the activities you enjoy!

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4 Sources

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Institute of Medicine (US) Division of Health Care Services; Heithoff KA, Lohr K, editors. Hip Fracture: Setting Priorities for Effectiveness Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). The Knowledge Base for Key Clinical Issues in Hip Fracture

  2. Bateman L, Vuppala S, Porada P, et al. Medical management in the acute hip fracture patient: a comprehensive review for the internist.Ochsner J. 2012;12(2):101–110.

  3. Magaziner J, Chiles N, Orwig D. Recovery after Hip Fracture: Interventions and Their Timing to Address Deficits and Desired Outcomes--Evidence from the Baltimore Hip Studies.Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2015;83:71–81. doi:10.1159/000382064

  4. Stott-Eveneshen S, Sims-Gould J, McAllister MM, et al. Reflections on Hip Fracture Recovery From Older Adults Enrolled in a Clinical Trial.Gerontol Geriatr Med. 2017;3:2333721417697663. doi:10.1177/2333721417697663

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Additional Reading

FAQs

What is life expectancy after a broken hip? ›

One in three adults aged 50 and over dies within 12 months of suffering a hip fracture. Older adults have a five-to-eight times higher risk of dying within the first three months of a hip fracture compared to those without a hip fracture. This increased risk of death remains for almost ten years.

Does breaking your hip shorten your life? ›

Some reports show that up to 50% of patients with hip fracture die within six months and many of those who survive do not recover their baseline independence and function.

Why Do Broken hips lead to death? ›

Excess mortality after hip fracture may be linked to complications following the fracture, such as pulmonary embolism [5], infections [2,6], and heart failure [2,6]. Factors associated with the risk of falling and sustaining osteoporotic fractures may also be responsible for the excess mortality [1,7].

How long does it take for an elderly person to recover from a broken hip? ›

In most situations, it can take between nine months and one year to fully recover from this type of injury.

What is the most common cause of death after total hip replacement? ›

The risk factors for early mortality most commonly identified are increasing age, male gender and co-morbid conditions, particularly cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular complications appear to have overtaken fatal pulmonary emboli as the leading cause of death after hip replacement.

How long are you in hospital with a broken hip? ›

How long you'll need to stay in hospital will depend on your condition and mobility. It may be possible to be discharged after around 1 week, but most people need to stay in hospital for around 2 weeks.

Can a broken hip be fatal? ›

One in three adults aged 50 and over dies within 12 months of suffering a hip fracture. Older adults have a five-to-eight times higher risk of dying within the first three months of a hip fracture compared to those without a hip fracture. This increased risk of death remains for almost ten years.

How long does it take to walk normally after hip fracture? ›

It may take 6 months to 1 year for you to fully recover. Some people, especially older people, are never able to move as well as they used to. You will slowly return to most of your activities. You may be able to walk on your own in 4 to 6 weeks.

How painful is a broken hip? ›

A broken hip is a serious injury that is very painful and can keep you from walking. People with broken hips may be at risk for other problems, such as pneumonia, blood clots, and muscle weakness. Some problems can be life threatening.

Can a 90 year old recover from a broken hip? ›

The length of recovery from hip fractures among older patients can increase with age. In general, the older individuals are and the greater number of conditions they have, the longer it can take to recover. The recovery time for a hip replacement ranges from four weeks to up to six months.

Can a 98 year old survive a broken hip? ›

The elderly broken hip life expectancy is good, but this type of accident does increase one's chances of dying when over the age of 65. While 4 out of 5 patients will survive a broken hip, one study showed that the overall mortality rate doubled over a 12-year period for those who had suffered from a hip fracture.

Can a 90 year old survive hip surgery? ›

Experts say total hip replacement is safe for 90-plus seniors in reasonably good health, and they deserve the same chance at pain relief and restored mobility as younger patients. Somebody over 90 would have the same reasons as others to consider hip replacement, says Dr.

Do Broken Bones shorten lifespan? ›

Fractures – Any Fractures – Shorten Life Expectancy

Fractures shorten life expectancy. A study of 30,000 women and men in Denmark, led by Jack Cush, M.D, found that a fracture, any fracture, increased that patient's 10-year mortality risk—but that the risk of death was highest in the first year after the fracture.

Does breaking a bone reduce life expectancy? ›

For older people who break a bone, the risk of death goes up - and that risk can stay high for years. This is true for most fracture sites, including the upper arm, spine, rib, pelvis, and hip,” said Center, of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

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