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Dr. Jerome Piontek, St. Luke's Hospital

Timely treatment for hip fractures can alleviate complications

We have all done it. We've slipped on a misplaced item on the floor, or we've been the unintended victim of a nudge or collision. We fall, wipe off the dust that may have collected on our clothes and continue on with our day.

But not all of us have the ability to just brush off a fall. For older people, a fall can have major consequences. For them, a hip fracture is more than just a bone waiting to be fixed. It's a serious and potentially grave injury that requires immediate attention and treatment.

According to recent statistics from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 340,000 Americans will experience some sort of hip fracture each year, with 69 percent of those being female. Of that population, 46 percent are between the ages of 65 and 84.

For both men and women who experience a hip fracture, time is of the essence. That's because underlying factors such as shock, cardiac disease and diabetes can influence whether a person develops complications or even becomes a fatality. A study released in March using findings from the National Sample Program of the National Trauma Data Bank found that the greatest tool we have to reduce the incidence of complications and mortality in hip fracture patients is to get them treatment as quickly as possible. An author of the study concluded that there is a 41 percent increase in fatalities if corrective surgery is postponed for 48 hours or more.

A hip fracture is a break in the upper part of the femur, or thigh bone, and is considered to be the most devastating osteoporosis-related fracture. There are three types of hip fractures, and most require some sort of surgical correction. Some fractures can be repaired with a rod, plate or screws, while others will require a partial or total hip replacement.

Should a person experience a fall and complain of pain or if there are more serious signs of trauma, you should call 911 immediately. Remember, time lost is opportunity lost.

Dr. Jerome Piontek is an orthopedic surgeon at St. Luke's Hospital. If you have hip or knee pain, attend a free class in 2013 on total hip or knee replacement. Visit the Classes and Events page or call 314-542-4848 to register.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on August 22, 2013.