• Clinical science

Hip fractures


Hip fractures are classified according to their anatomical location as intracapsular, which involves the femoral head and neck, and extracapsular, which includes intertrochanteric, trochanteric, and subtrochanteric fractures. A low impact fall is the typical mechanism of injury in the eldery and is often associated with underlying osteoporosis. Motor vehicle accidents are typical in younger individuals. Clinical features include groin pain and deformity of the hip. An x-ray is usually diagnostic, while an MRI may be required to confirm a pathological fracture. Surgical therapy is usually considered definitive treatment, especially for unstable or displaced hip fractures. Thromboembolism and avascular necrosis are common and serious complications.

Hip fractures, especially fractures of the femoral head, are often associated with a hip dislocation. Posterior hip dislocations account for 90% of hip dislocations and typically follow a dashboard injury. Early reduction is vital to avoid vascular compromise and sciatic nerve injury.


  • Peak incidence:> 70 years
  • Sex: >
  • More common in whites


Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.



Types of hip fractures

Hip fractures are generally divided into intracapsular or extracapsular

Femoral head fracture

Pipkin Classification
Description Treatment after rapid repositioning
Pipkin I
Pipkin II
Pipkin III
Pipkin IV

A patient with an MVA dashboard injury may present with a femoral head fracture and hip dislocation!

Watch out for sciatic nerve injury in patients with femoral head fractures!


Femoral neck fracture

Garden Classification
Garden I

Nondisplaced, incomplete, impaction fracture

Garden II

Complete, but nondisplaced fracture

Garden III

Partially displaced, complete fracture with medial contact of the fracture elements and varus displacement of the femoral head

Garden IV

Entirely displaced, complete fracture

A femoral neck fracture may be associated with femoral shaft fractures in ∼8% of cases References:[1]

Trochanteric fracture

  • Clinical features
  • Diagnostics
    • X-ray showing avulsion of the greater or lesser trochanter
    • MRI if a pathological fracture is suspected )
  • Treatment
    • Most heal with conservative treatment (e.g., nonweightbearing)
    • Surgical repair for displaced fractures (> 1 cm)

Subtrochanteric fracture

  • Clinical features
  • Diagnostics
    • X-ray : fracture between the lesser trochanter up to 5cm below that (distally)
    • MRI if a pathological fracture is suspected
  • Treatment
    • Consider conservative approach (i.e., traction) in surgically unstable patients
    • Surgery is indicated in displaced/nondisplaced fractures in adults, especially if associated with multiple trauma, an open fracture, or pathological fractures
      • Long intramedullary nail with a lag screw
      • Locking plate may be considered for complicated fractures (e.g., pre-existing femoral deformity, associated femoral neck fracture)

Intertrochanteric fracture


Type of hip dislocation Etiology Clinical features Diagnostics Treatment Complications
Posterior hip dislocation (90% of cases)
Anterior hip dislocation (10% of cases)

Fracture dislocations are at greatest risk of avascular necrosis of the femoral head!


Thrombolytic therapy reduces the risk of deep vein thrombosis in patients with hip fractures!References:[1]

We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.


Hip fractures have a high rate of associated morbidity and mortality in elderly patients!References:[1]


  • Fall risk assessment, for example with the Tinetti-Test, which is used to evaluate a patient's gait and balance.
  • Early preventative efforts such as fall training, physical therapy, removal of tripping hazards, appropriate shoes, etc.
  • Osteoporosis prophylaxis