Hip fracture - Diagnosing a hip fracture
NHS Choices Medical Reference
Due to the way hip fractures occur, such as in 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, the doctors treating you will assess your overall condition. For example, they may:
- ask how you were injured and, if you fell, 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 currently 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
- a 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 (a ward for people with conditions that involve the skeleton).
To confirm the hip fracture diagnosis, imaging tests are used to create a picture of the bones in your hip. Some imaging tests you may have 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.
See the Health A-Z topic about X-rays for more information.
If an X-ray does not confirm the diagnosis, you may need additional tests such as a computerised (axial) tomography (CT) scan, a complex scanning X-ray or an MRI scan (see below).
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
A 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. See the Health A-Z topic about MRI scans for more information.