A man helps an older woman using a walker in an outdoor patio areaShare on Pinterest
Experts say most hip fractures require surgery followed by a rehabilation period. Erdark/Getty Images
  • A new report predicts that the number of hip fractures worldwide will double by 2050 as the global population ages.
  • Experts say the increase will put a burden on the medical community because hip fractures usually require surgery.
  • They note that hip fractures can also cause other medical issues and increase the risk of mortality in older adults.
  • They say you can reduce your risk of hip fracture by installing grab bars around your home, making sure your floors are clear of any objects you might trip over, and doing strengthening and balancing exercises regularly.

A new study completed at the University of Hong Kong indicates that hip fractures could become a global problem as the world’s population ages.

In their study, researchers analyzed data from 19 countries that included people over age 50 who fractured their hip between 2005 and 2018.

Across the 19 countries, researchers noted that the number of hip fractures declined, possibly because of better medical care, hygiene, diet, and other factors.

Some countries, including Denmark and Singapore, and Hong Kong, saw a pronounced decrease in hip fractures during the study years.

However, in other countries, such as the Netherlands and South Korea, there were increases.

Despite the overall decline, researchers said the expected increase in life expectancy will probably cause the number of hip fractures worldwide to double between 2018 and 2050.

The United Nations expects life expectancy to reach 77 by 2050, the age which this study showed had a high risk of experiencing hip fractures.

The researchers said they expect men to experience the most significant proportional increase.

They noted that another possible reason is that osteoporosis, a major cause of hip fractures, is underdiagnosed and undertreated in men.

“Our study showed that the use of anti-osteoporosis medications following a hip fracture is lower in men than in women by 30 percent to 67 percent,” Ching-lung Cheung, PhD, an associate professor in the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacy and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Thus, more attention should be paid to preventing and treating hip fractures in men.”

The researchers point out that post-fracture treatment remains inadequate in many countries and the incidence in people older than 85 is double that of other age groups.

The researchers said they don’t believe the decline in hip fracture incidence will offset the growing aging population, causing the burden of hip fractures to grow.

The study was presented today at the annual meeting of the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research in Austin, Texas. The research hasn’t been peer-reviewed or published yet.

“Nearly all hip fractures require surgery,” Dr. Michael Hunter, an orthopedic surgeon with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Southern California, told Healthline. “This is especially true in the aging population. Non-surgical management is generally indicated only in rare instances when the patient is too sick to undergo an operation or in certain cases of incomplete fractures when the patient can adequately protect their weight bearing.”

The type of surgery depends on the location and severity of the break.

The two main types of surgery are hip repair and hip replacement, according to Stanford Medicine:

  • Hip repair (also called hip pinning) is used when the doctor can line the bones up properly. Metal screws, rods, or plates hold the bones together as they heal.
  • Hip replacement is usually done when the bones cannot be lined up properly. There is a partial or a total hip replacement. In a partial hip replacement, the top part of the thigh bone is replaced. In a total hip replacement, the top of the thighbone and the hip socket are replaced.

“The recovery period is highly dependent on the medical and physical status of the patient, the severity of the overall injury, and the type of surgery required,” explained Dr. John Tiberi, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in joint replacement and joint preservation at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.

“Bone and soft tissue healing can take approximately three months,” he told Healthline. “However, the recovery period, including conditioning and strengthening, can take up to one year.”

About one in three women and one in 12 men will experience a hip fracture in their lifetime, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Around 86 percent of hip fractures occur in people 65 or older. In the United States, there are more than 300,000 hospitalizations for hip fractures each year.

Most fractures are caused by falling sideways, but osteoporosis is often the underlying cause. The fractures often cause a decrease in mobility and an increase in the amount of care needed.

The mortality rate in the first year after surgery to treat the fracture is between 15 and 36 percent, according to a study published in 2019. For each year of increase in age when the fracture occurred, there was a 9 percent increase in the risk of dying within 12 months from surgery.

“Hip fractures are dangerous because there is so much morbidity and mortality associated with them, said Dr Timothy Gibson, an orthopedic surgeon and medical director of the MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in California.

“It is not uncommon for patients with a hip fracture to develop altered mental status, pneumonia, blood clots, bedsores, anemia, and other medical issues,” he told Healthline.

Experts say there are medications that can help prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures.

“Many are promising and are, in general, safe. I would recommend patients concerned with osteoporosis discuss this with their primary care doctor and examine all current options,” said Dr. Benjamin Bengs, an orthopedic surgeon and director of Special Surgery at the Center for Hip and Knee Replacement at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the following for reducing your risk of a hip fracture:

  • Get screened for osteoporosis and follow your treatment plan, if necessary
  • Include strength and balance exercises in your daily life
  • Have your eyes checked to make sure you can adequately see
  • Install grab bars in your tub or shower, outside the shower, next to the toilet, and in other places you might need them
  • Make sure all stairs have railings on both sides
  • Keep your floors empty of things you could trip over
  • Add extra lights or brighter bulbs in areas you might need them

“Maintaining good bone health includes eating a healthy diet and ensuring adequate calcium consumption,” said Dr. Michael Chan, an interventional cardiologist with Providence St. Jude Medical Center in California.

“Additional, it is essential to maintain a routine of weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, hiking, dancing, elliptical training, and playing tennis or pickleball,” he told Healthline.