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Hip injury: 5 movement tips

Follow these tips when responding to a patient with a suspected hip fracture

In central Wisconsin, where I live, the ice and snow season logically leads to an increase in the number of “elderly patient has fallen, possible broken hip” calls.

When responding to patients with a suspected broken hip, remember these tips:

  1. Plan then move. The patient is often already in a relative position of comfort. Wait to move them until you have a plan and resources to make the move.
  2. Anticipate hypothermia. Geriatric patients have decreased thermoregulatory responses. The patient is likely conducting heat into a cold kitchen, bathroom, or garage floor. Covering the patient does not stop the downward conductive heat loss. Move the patient onto a warm blanket(s) and/or padded backboard to minimize heat loss.
  3. Pain management. If authorized, follow your local protocols to begin pharmacological pain management before moving the patient.
  4. Splint the long bone above and below. Minimize movement of the patient’s injured leg and hip by using available materials like pillows and draw sheets to buddy splint the patient’s legs together.
  5. Team lifting. When it is time to move the patient, assign one person to focus on stabilizing the patient’s injured hip and not participate in the lift.

How do you minimize the patient’s pain and improve comfort for a patient with an unstable hip injury from a fall? Share your ideas by sending us an email.

This article, originally published October 22, 2009, has been updated

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.