A broken femur is a serious injury that requires immediate medical care. Broken femurs are treated with surgery and physical therapy. It can take months for your broken femur to heal. You can break your femur by being in a car crash, falling or being shot. Elderly people who are prone to injuries from falls can break their femurs.
Your femur — the leg bone between your hip and knee — is the longest, heaviest and strongest bone in your body. It takes tremendous force to break your femur. If you break your femur, you will need immediate medical help. Your broken femur can take months to heal.
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Most people break their femur because they were in a car crash, they fell or they were shot. People age 65 and older have an increased risk for breaking bones, including their femurs, after falling down while standing.
If you break your femur, you might:
Broken femurs can be very painful. Your healthcare provider will provide pain medication as part of your treatment.
If you’ve fallen or been injured, here are signs you may have a broken femur:
If you have a broken femur, you won’t be able to put weight on your injured leg.
Most people break their femurs because of a car crash, a fall or from a gunshot. Elderly people can break their femur simply from a fall from standing.
Providers diagnose broken femurs by examining your injured leg. They’ll also obtain X-rays and computed tomography scan (CT) scans. These tests help healthcare providers identify the type of broken femur. Broken femur types include:
Sometimes providers treat broken femurs with a splint that will cover your whole leg and goes up toward your hip. They do this as a temporary step to help with your pain and keep your broken femur still.
They may use traction to treat your broken femur. There are two types of traction. One type goes on the outside of your leg. The other type goes into your femur or your tibia. Here’s more information about traction to treat broken femurs:
Yes. If you’ve broken your femur, your provider will do surgery so your broken bone will heal properly. You’ll probably have surgery 24 to 48 hours after you seek treatment for your injury. Providers typically do one of two types of surgery:
Your surgeon makes an incision at your hip or knee joint. Then they’ll line up the broken pieces and stabilize the femur with a piece of metal.
Providers use a variety of metal pieces in ORIF surgery:
External fixation is a surgery that stabilizes your broken femur by placing metal bolts in your femur. The bolts are secured to a frame on the outside of your femur. Your provider may do this surgery if you need ORIF but can’t have that surgery right away.
You’ll have physical therapy throughout your recovery.
Your healthcare provider will discuss your pain concerns and provide appropriate medication.
Any given surgery has potential complications or side effects. The complications or side effects from surgery for a broken femur are:
You will need someone at home to help you during the first two weeks. (Your healthcare provider can help you find trained in-home care.)
You should sleep lying flat on your back with your broken femur elevated above the level of your heart. Sleeping like this can keep your broken femur from swelling.
As you recover, you’ll likely want to move around your home on your own. Ask your healthcare provider how much weight you can put on your leg. You may need to use a cane, crutches or a walker to get around. Your physical therapist will help you learn how to use them.
Be careful not to fall as you could reinjure your femur. Take the following precautions to decrease your risk of falling:
It can take four to six months to fully recover from surgery.
Broken femurs go through stages of a natural healing process that can take four to six months. Here’s a breakdown:
Unfortunately, you probably can’t control events that may cause you to break your femur. People break their femurs in car crashes, falls or being shot.
There are ways to prevent falls by people who are age 65 and older and more likely to be injured in a fall, including falling down while standing.
If you are age 65 or older and concerned about falling, ask your healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling, including medications that may make you feel sleepy or dizzy. They’ll recommend steps you can take to reduce that risk. For example, they may recommend exercises that can strengthen your legs and improve balance.
You’ll have regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider, starting two weeks after surgery and continuing every few weeks.
Be sure to talk to your provider if you have concerns about your progress or have specific concerns such as pain management.
Call your provider anytime you have the following as you recover from a broken femur:
A broken femur is a serious injury that requires immediate medical care. Once your immediate needs are addressed, here are some questions you should ask your healthcare provider:
Unfortunately, your femur can still hurt long after your fracture heals. There are many possible causes for this pain – called chronic pain. Possible causes include:
Physical therapy, exercise and medication can ease or eliminate chronic pain.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A broken femur is a serious injury that takes time to heal. You might feel as you are never going to recover completely. You may start to feel anxious and frustrated. You may even decide you want to hurry the healing process and end up with a setback. Talk to your healthcare provider about resources you can tap to help you stay on track.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/18/2022.
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