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Broken hip - Diagnosing a hip fracture

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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As hip fractures often occur as a result of a fall, diagnosis usually takes place at a hospital. It may be necessary to call 999 for an ambulance after someone has fallen or otherwise injured themselves.

Assessment in hospital

If you have been taken to hospital with a suspected hip fracture, doctors treating you will assess your overall condition. For example, they may:

  • ask how you were injured and, if you have had a fall, ask if this is the first time you have fallen
  • ask about any other medical conditions you have, such as a heart problem
  • ask if you are taking any medication
  • assess how much pain you are in
  • assess your mental state, for example if you also hit your head you may be confused or unconscious
  • take your temperature 
  • make sure you are not dehydrated (when the normal water content of your body is reduced)

Depending on your assessment, you may be given:

  • pain medication
  • local anaesthetic injection near your hip
  • intravenous fluid (fluid through a needle into a vein in your arm)

The healthcare professionals treating you will make sure you are warm and comfortable. When possible, you may be moved from the emergency department to a ward, such as an orthopaedic ward.

Imaging tests

To confirm your hip has been fractured, imaging tests are used to create a picture of the bones in your hip. Some of these are explained below.

X-rays are a type of radiation (waves of energy) used to create an image of the inside of your body. X-rays are a very effective way of detecting problems with bones, such as fractures, and this is likely to be the first imaging test you have.

magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may be used if the diagnosis is uncertain. MRI scans use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce a detailed image of the inside of the body. MRI scans are very effective at confirming even subtle hip fractures.

computerised tomography (CT) scan may be used if you are not able to have an MRI scan, or if there is not one available quickly.

Medical Review: July 04, 2012
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