What sort of recovery can my mum expect after breaking her hip?

A fellow caregiver asked...

What sort of recovery can my mum expect after fracturing her hip?

Expert Answer

Laura Cheney, a physical therapist who specializes in geriatrics, graduated with honors from the University of California at San Francisco in 2000. She loves her job working as the sole physical therapist at a premier life-care facility in San Francisco. She has written articles and lectured extensively on fall prevention and other issues relevant to the aging experience. As a registered yoga teacher, she teaches yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques to seniors -- helping them expand their repertoire for coping with stress, pain, and illness in the later years.


Typically, there are two ways to fix a fractured hip. One is to replace the hip and the other is to put pins and plates in it to stabilize the bone. Either way, she will require surgery. Sometimes after fixing the bone with plates and pins the patient is not supposed to put weight through that leg for a while after surgery. After replacing a hip, she should be able to put weight through it right away but there will be other motions that she has to be careful to avoid to protect the hip from dislocating. All these restrictions typically are advised for 6-8 weeks after surgery. Your doctor will notify you of those precautions. Otherwise, I can tell you the typical course of recovery here in the U.S. One has surgery and spends 3-5 days in the hospital until they are medically stable to transition to another lower level of care. A physical and occupational therapist will be in the day after surgery to help your mum start to move in bed and to perhaps sit at the edge of the bed, stand, and even walk a few steps. In these early days the patient is dealing mostly with potential side effects of the anesthesia and blood loss like nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and inability to remain upright due to dizziness. Very soon, she will be walking with a walker and with assistance. She will then transition to going back home with assistance and home therapy or to an acute rehab center where she will get more therapy to work on walking, strengthening, walking up/down stairs if necessary, and self-care. She could stay there anywhere from 1-2 weeks. Upon returning home she will likely be walking with a walker or cane, will need a commode to raise her toilet seat level, and will be comfortably walking household distances. She may also require further outpatient therapy to return to her baseline ability level. There is so much variability in the recovery from a hip fracture, largely based on one’s prior mobility level, the severity of the fracture, and any other illnesses or health factors that may have an effect on the body’s ability to heal. Overall, I think you will be surprised at how quickly she can get back to walking and enjoying her life.