What are Femoral Neck Fractures?

D. Jeffress

A femoral neck fracture is a break that occurs in the femur bone of the leg, just below the ball-shaped head that fits into the hip socket. Fractures of this type are particularly common in athletes who play contact sports and older individuals who suffer from osteoporosis. Femoral neck fractures usually result in immediate pain, stiffness, and an inability to bear weight on the leg. Emergency evaluation and care is important to prevent further damage to the hip socket and determine the most appropriate treatment measures. Depending on the severity of a femoral neck fracture, a surgeon may decide to pin the hip socket together with screws or replace the damaged joint with a prosthetic device.

A severe femoral neck fracture may need hip replacement surgery to fix.
A severe femoral neck fracture may need hip replacement surgery to fix.

The femur is the largest bone in the human body, and its alignment in the hip socket is essential for stability and motion. The main shaft of the femur is connected to the round head by the femoral neck, a relatively thin section of bone. When the neck is fractured, the joint swells and usually causes intense pain. An individual who suffers a fracture cannot put weight on the leg or move it without extreme discomfort.

A fracture of the femur bone just below the hip socket is called a femoral neck fracture.
A fracture of the femur bone just below the hip socket is called a femoral neck fracture.

Femoral neck fractures usually occur with direct trauma to the hip. An athlete who gets hit from the side or falls awkwardly can suffer a break due to the sheer force of impact on the hip joint. Osteoporosis, a condition that leads to erosion and frailty of bone tissue, greatly increases the likelihood of femoral neck fractures during even minor falls or sudden twists. Other factors that significantly increase the risk of femoral neck fractures include malnutrition, poor vision, obesity, and disorders that affect muscle stability.

It is essential to call an ambulance or transport an individual to the emergency room after he or she suffers a severe hip injury. The leg should be immobilized on the way to the hospital to prevent damage to nearby ligaments, tendons, and the rest of the hip joint. Upon admittance into the hospital, a doctor usually administers painkilling medications and takes an x-ray of the hip joint. The physician carefully analyzes x-rays to make sure the blood supply has not been cut off to the affected bone. In such a case, emergency surgery is necessary to restore blood flow and prevent bone and muscle tissue death.

Once a doctor has determined the location and severity of a femoral neck fracture, he or she can try to manually set the bone back into place and wrap the hip in protective padding. Patients with femoral neck fractures usually need to undergo surgical procedures to promote proper healing. A surgeon may decide to place two or three metal screws through the femoral head and hip joint to keep the leg in place while it mends together.

If bones are very fragile because of osteoporosis or a severe break, the surgeon may need to replace the hip joint. A procedure called a hip hemiarthroplasty, or partial hip replacement, involves removing the femoral head and surrounding hip socket and inserting a lightweight metal prosthesis in its place. It usually takes several months of careful monitoring and physical therapy to recover from a hip injury. With expert care, most people can regain the ability to engage in a limited level of regular physical activity.

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