Hip Fracture in Emergency Medicine Workup

  • Author: Moira Davenport, MD; Chief Editor: Trevor John Mills, MD, MPH  more...
Updated: Feb 28, 2016

Laboratory Studies

Laboratory studies are not useful in the diagnosis of fracture. Preoperative laboratory studies usually are drawn.


Imaging Studies

Anteroposterior (AP) and lateral views demonstrate most fractures. If a fracture is not obvious, look for alteration of the Shenton line and compare it to the other hip. In addition, check the neck-shaft angle, which is determined by measuring the angle created by lines drawn through the centers of the femoral shaft and femoral neck. This should be approximately 120-130°. For patients in whom femoral neck fracture is strongly suspected but standard x-ray findings are negative, an AP view with internal rotation provides a better view of the femoral neck.

If radiographic findings are equivocal but the history and physical examination are concerning for fracture, CT scan should be considered, particularly in unstable patients or those for whom MRI would be significantly delayed. A recent retrospective study has questioned the sensitivity of plain radiography in detecting hip and pelvis fractures.[16]

If standard radiograph findings are negative and hip fracture still is strongly suspected, MRI and bone scan have high sensitivity in identifying occult injuries. MRI is 100% sensitive in patients with equivocal radiographic findings. Traditionally, bone scan has been thought to be unreliable before 48-72 hours after fracture, but one study found a sensitivity of 93% regardless of time from injury, including fractures less than 24 hours old. For patients in whom a fracture is strongly suspected and radiographs are negative, consider admission if MRI or bone scan is not readily available.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Moira Davenport, MD Attending Physician, Departments of Emergency Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery, Allegheny General Hospital

Moira Davenport, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Eric L Legome, MD Chief, Department of Emergency Medicine, Kings County Hospital Center; Professor Clinical, Department of Emergency Medicine, State University of New York Downstate College of Medicine

Eric L Legome, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors, American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Trevor John Mills, MD, MPH Chief of Emergency Medicine, Veterans Affairs Northern California Health Care System; Professor of Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California, Davis, School of Medicine

Trevor John Mills, MD, MPH is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Francis Counselman, MD, FACEP Chair, Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School

Francis Counselman, MD, FACEP is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Emergency Physicians, Norfolk Academy of Medicine, Association of Academic Chairs of Emergency Medicine, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous authors, Gigi R Madore, MD, and Geoff Winkley, MD, to the development and writing of this article.

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Shenton line and angular anatomy of the femur.
Femoral head fractures. Top diagram is a single-fragment femoral head fracture. Bottom diagram is a comminuted femoral head fracture.
Femoral neck fractures. Top diagram is a nondisplaced, or incomplete, femoral neck fracture. Bottom diagram is an impacted femoral neck fracture.
Partially displaced femoral neck fracture.
Completely displaced femoral neck fracture.
Trochanteric fractures. Top diagram is a nondisplaced trochanteric fracture. Bottom diagram is a displaced trochanteric fracture.
Intertrochanteric fractures. Top diagram is a single fracture line intertrochanteric fracture. Bottom diagram is a displaced, or multiple fracture line, intertrochanteric fracture.
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