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What Is a Proximal Femoral Fracture?

A proximal femoral fracture is a serious break near the top of the thigh bone, close to the hip joint, often caused by falls or impacts. Such fractures can significantly impact mobility and require prompt medical attention. To see how these fractures are treated and understand their implications on daily life, view our detailed images and continue exploring with us. What will you discover?
H. Colledge
H. Colledge

The femur is the thigh bone, which runs from the hip joint to the knee joint. A femur fracture, or femoral fracture, can be proximal or distal. Distal describes a point farther away from the center of the body, so moving toward the end of a limb, while proximal refers to something which is nearer to the torso. The proximal femur is the end closest to the hip bone, and it includes the rounded femoral head, which is part of the hip joint, and the femoral neck, on which the head sits. A proximal femoral fracture is more commonly known as a hip fracture, or broken hip, and it most often occurs in female, elderly patients after a simple fall.

In the elderly, fractures of the proximal femur are typically associated with a condition called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis makes bones weaker and more likely to break, and a broken hip is one of the most common complications. Proximal femoral fracture also occurs occasionally in younger people, when it is more likely to be caused by an extreme injury such as a motor vehicle accident. Fractures are more likely to occur in people who have had one before or whose mothers have had one. Other factors which increase the risk of proximal femur fracture include smoking, lack of exercise, low body weight and dementia.

Proximal femoral fractures are typically associated with osteoporosis in the elderly.
Proximal femoral fractures are typically associated with osteoporosis in the elderly.

There are different types of proximal femoral fracture, and they can be classed as intracapsular or extracapsular. Intracapsular fractures occur inside the capsule that encloses the hip joint, while extracapsular breaks take place in areas of bone that lie outside the capsule. Sometimes the pieces of bone are moved out of alignment, which can increase the risk of complications.

Some elderly may need the assistance of a walker after suffering a proximal femoral fracture.
Some elderly may need the assistance of a walker after suffering a proximal femoral fracture.

Symptoms of proximal femoral fracture vary depending on the exact location of the break. Bruising is often seen but, perhaps surprisingly, moving and placing weight on the leg does not always cause a lot of pain if the bone is still aligned. When sections of bone have been moved out of place, this is known as a displaced fracture. Even small movements typically cause pain and the leg will not bear weight. With a displaced fracture, the leg will look shorter than usual and may appear to be turned outward.

Most of the time, a proximal femoral fracture can be diagnosed based on an X-ray.
Most of the time, a proximal femoral fracture can be diagnosed based on an X-ray.

In most cases, a proximal femoral fracture can be diagnosed by its appearance on an X-ray. Treatment of proximal femoral fracture aims to relieve pain and enable patients to resume their usual activities. Usually, surgery is carried out to fix bone fragments together while they heal or to replace some or all of the hip joint with artificial parts.

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    • Proximal femoral fractures are typically associated with osteoporosis in the elderly.
      By: Anna Lurye
      Proximal femoral fractures are typically associated with osteoporosis in the elderly.
    • Some elderly may need the assistance of a walker after suffering a proximal femoral fracture.
      By: Alexander Raths
      Some elderly may need the assistance of a walker after suffering a proximal femoral fracture.
    • Most of the time, a proximal femoral fracture can be diagnosed based on an X-ray.
      By: stockdevil
      Most of the time, a proximal femoral fracture can be diagnosed based on an X-ray.
    • The proximal part of the femur bone is the end closest to the hip bone.
      By: maya2008
      The proximal part of the femur bone is the end closest to the hip bone.
    • Physical therapy may be used to treat a hip fracture.
      By: WavebreakmediaMicro
      Physical therapy may be used to treat a hip fracture.
    • Symptoms of a proximal femoral fracture depend on the location of the break.
      By: ArTo
      Symptoms of a proximal femoral fracture depend on the location of the break.
    • Bruising is often seen with a proximal femoral fracture.
      By: dambuster
      Bruising is often seen with a proximal femoral fracture.