Intertrochanteric Hip Fractures

Practice Essentials

Intertrochanteric fractures are considered one of the three types of hip fractures. The anatomic site of this type of hip fracture is the proximal or upper part of the femur or thigh bone. The proximal femur consists of the femoral head, the femoral neck, and the trochanteric region (including the greater and lesser trochanters). A trochanteric hip fracture occurs between the greater trochanter, where the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus (hip extensors and abductors) attach, and the lesser trochanter, where the iliopsoas (hip flexor) attaches.

The other two types of hip fractures are fractures of the femoral neck, which are proximal or cephalad to trochanteric fractures, and subtrochanteric fractures, which are distal to or below the trochanters. Although all three types of fractures are commonly referred to simply as hip fractures, the above distinctions between them are important because the anatomy, prognosis, and management are different for each type.

From the early 1800s on, the literature revealed that intertrochanteric hip fractures routinely healed but were malunited in varus, leading to deformity and decreased function secondary to a limp and hip abductor weakness. However, nonoperative care of intertrochanteric fractures had significant, unacceptable morbidity and mortality because of concurrent medical problems and prolonged incumbency that prevented union from occurring. Because of these significant problems, conservative treatment was deemed unacceptable regardless of the mortality.

Therefore, progress in the care of intertrochanteric fractures has involved reducing the mortality from nonorthopedic coexisting or concurrent medical problems and decreasing the degree of malunion and possible nonunion of these fractures. These improvements have allowed patients to become more functional.

The other problem related to intertrochanteric fractures is the associated osteoporosis or osteopenia seen in the aging population. Recognition of this problem has led to the development of programs to ensure that these patients are assessed and, when necessary, treated to prevent a second fracture from occurring. Prevention of the first fracture is also important, in view of the ongoing increase in the elderly population. [1]

Trochanteric fractures are treated by using engineered metallic fixation devices (internal splintage device) designed to maintain the nondisplaced or reduced displaced fracture fragments in an anatomic, near-anatomic, or acceptable position. Fracture stability (the ability of the fracture pattern to resist deformation of weight-bearing) assists in the uncomplicated healing of the fracture. In addition, postoperative care and rates of complications, including mortality and morbidity, vary for the different subcategories of intertrochanteric fractures.

Current treatment of intertrochanteric fractures involves surgical intervention. Despite acceptable healing rates with nonsurgical methods, surgical methods have replaced previous nonsurgical methods of prolonged bed rest, prolonged traction in bed, or prolonged immobilization in a full-body (spica) cast. [234 The acceptable healing rates for nonsurgical management were accompanied by unacceptable morbidity and mortality because of frequent nonorthopedic complications associated with prolonged immobilization or inactivity, as well as malunions compromising patient function.

Such complications included the following:

  • Pulmonary complications of pneumonia resulting from inactivity
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE) from  deep vein thrombosis (DVT) caused by immobilization of an extremity
  • Pressure ulcers from prolonged bed rest
  • Loss of motion of the lower-extremity joints and muscle atrophy due to prolonged immobilization
  • Union of the fracture in an unacceptable position resulting in a deformity; in this situation, known as a malunion, the fracture heals with unacceptable shortening, rotation, or angulation of the extremity, resulting in decreased mobility and subsequent handicap, impairment, and disability

Currently, with a few exceptions, surgical intervention is used to treat essentially all trochanteric fractures and is described as open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF).

Various internal fixation devices are available to treat essentially all trochanteric fractures. In each case, the appropriate device must be carefully matched to the specific fracture type. The correct surgical technique described by the device developer should also be used. Therefore, the optimal device is chosen after the type of trochanteric fracture has been precisely diagnosed. The indications and contraindications of the technique must also be matched with the patient's activity level, degree of osteoporosis, and realistic expected outcome.

Accomplishing this match between technique and patient requires, at a minimum, technically adequate preoperative radiographs of the hip, including an anteroposterior (AP) view of the pelvis and involved hip and a true lateral view (cross-table technique). In some cases, a frog lateral view, a computed tomography (CT) scan, or even a reconstituted CT scan may be necessary to define the fracture in sufficient detail to permit accurate operative planning. Gentle traction during the radiograph will help define the fracture, particularly if significant shortening has occurred (traction view).


The intertrochanteric area of the femur is distal to the femoral neck and proximal to the femoral shaft; it is the area of the femoral trochanters, the lesser and the greater trochanters (see the image below). The intertrochanteric area can also be seen as the area where the femur changes from an essentially vertical bone to a bone angling at a 45° angle from the near-vertical to the acetabulum or pelvis. The femoral artery and nerve are anterior; the sciatic nerve is posterior. (See Hip Joint Anatomy.)

Normal femur anatomy. Normal femur anatomy.

The attachments of the iliopsoas and the gluteus medius can cause certain displacements, depending on the fracture patterns. These factors may make reduction difficult. The attachment of the gluteus maximus to the lateral femoral shaft is opposite to the posteromedially placed lesser trochanter; it thus acts as a guide to the level of the lesser trochanter and is helpful in the placement of a guide wire for the compression screw. The vastus lateralis overlies the lateral cortex of the proximal femur and must be elevated for application of a side plate.


The stability of an intertrochanteric fracture is defined by the amount of contact between the proximal and distal main fragments (see the images below). A two-part fracture is very stable because once the two fragments are reduced, they are impacted on each other and provide inherent stability for the implant.

Stable intertrochanteric fracture. Stable intertrochanteric fracture.
Unstable intertrochanteric fracture. Unstable intertrochanteric fracture.

In a three-part fracture, the stability of the fracture is inversely proportional to the size of the lesser trochanteric fragment. Instability occurs when more than 50% of the calcar is affected, allowing the proximal fragment to collapse into a varus position and shorten. Therefore, a fracture is considered unstable if there is a large lesser trochanteric fragment or if the greater and the lesser trochanter are separate fracture fragments (four-part fracture).

Another indicator of fracture stability is the intactness of the lateral trochanteric wall, [5the portion of the greater trochanter that extends form the vastus ridge (the attachment of the vastus lateralis) to the tip of the greater trochanter. If this wall is fractured, the fixation construct will collapse into an unacceptable position, or the implant will cut out.

The more unstable the fracture is, the more difficult reduction will be, and the more likely it is that an implant, such as a cephalomedullary nail, will be needed to stabilize the fracture and prevent collapse. [6Stable fractures can be treated with a sliding hip screw–plate device (two- to four-hole plate).


Intertrochanteric fractures occur as consequences of either high-energy trauma (rare; seen in young male patients) or simple low-energy falls (common; seen in elderly female patients).

The etiology of low-energy intertrochanteric fracture is a combination of the following factors:

  • Increased bone fragility of the intertrochanteric area of the femur
  • Decreased agility and decreased muscle tone of the muscles in the area secondary to aging

The increasing bone fragility results from osteoporosis and osteomalacia secondary to a lack of adequate ambulation or antigravity activities, as well as decreased hormone levels, increased levels of demineralizing hormones, decreased intake of calcium or vitamin D, and other aging processes. [7Benign and malignant tumors, along with metastases such as multiple myeloma and other malignancies, can also lead to weakened bony structure.

A direct impact or a torsional force transmitted through the leg to the intertrochanteric area will cause a fracture when such forces are greater than the strength of the bone in the intertrochanteric area.


Approximately 252,000 hip fractures occur each year in the United States. Despite the relatively small incidence, hip fractures are responsible for approximately 3.5 million hospital days in the United States; hip fractures account for more hospital days than tibial fractures, vertebral fractures, and pelvic fractures combined. In addition, hip fractures account for more than half of the total hospital admissions of all fractures and more than half of the ambulance calls for fractures.

Among individuals older than 60 years, intertrochanteric fractures occur more than twice as often in women as they do in men. The mean age for this fracture is 81 years. In this group, the major contributing factors are osteoporosis and the propensity of older patients to fall. In the age group between 11 and 60 years, however, males sustain more fractures than females. The causative factor in this age group is high-energy trauma. It is also more common to see intertrochanteric fractures in Caucasians. [8]


A stable and acceptably fixed intertrochanteric fracture can be expected to heal. In elderly patients, the activity level usually drops by one level after recovery from this injury. The mortality is 20-30% during the first year after fracture for these patients.

A prospective, randomized, single-blind study compared outcomes in patients treated with the Gotfried percutaneous compression plate versus the sliding hip screw for A1 and A2 AO/OTA intertrochanteric proximal femoral fractures. [9Treatment with the Gotfried plate yielded significantly shorter operating time (48 vs 78 minutes), significantly shorter incision length (56 vs 82 mm), and significantly less blood loss (41 vs 101 mL).

Additionally, the patients treated with the percutaneous compression plate had lower levels of pain with activity, improved quality of life, and a better percent chance of walking independently; however, these latter results were not deemed significant. [9This study did not differentiate between unstable and stable intertrochanteric fractures (AO/OTA A2.2 and A2.3). As a result, the use of these techniques should be undertaken with caution in unstable fractures.

Unstable intertrochanteric fractures are best treated with an intramedullary device, as indicated by a study of 210 patients randomized to nail versus compression hip screw. [10Patients treated with such devices had less blood loss, better function and fewer reoperations than those in the compression hip screw group. Similar results were obtained in a randomized, controlled trial of unstable intertrochanteric fractures. [11]

Anglen et al found that from 1999 to 2006, for fixation of trochanteric fractures, there was a dramatic increase in the preference for the use of intramedullary nails that interlock proximally into the femoral head, in comparison with the use of a sliding compression screw. [4 The intramedullary nail fixation rate rose from 3% in 1999 to 67% in 2006. Overall, patients managed with plate fixation had slightly less pain and deformity than those managed with intramedullary nailing, and no significant differences were identified with regard to function or patient satisfaction.

In addition, the authors found that patients managed with intramedullary nailing had more procedure-related complications, particularly femoral shaft fracture. [4 They noted that this change in management of trochanteric hip fractures occurred despite a lack of evidence supporting the change and the apparent potential for increased complications and cost.

Bhandari et al performed a meta-analysis to identify the risk of femoral shaft fracture associated with short cephalomedullary nails after treatment of extracapsular hip fractures. [12 They found that in studies published between 1991 and 2000, gamma nails increased the risk of femoral shaft fracture by 4.5 times when compared with compression screws.

In subsequent studies (2000-2005), however, gamma nails were not associated with significantly increased risk of femoral shaft fracture, and in a 2005 study, there was no difference in femoral fracture rates. [12 According to Bhandari et al, the more recent trials suggest that the increased femoral shaft fracture risk associated with gamma nails has been resolved as the result of improved implant design and better surgical technique. [12]

Sidhu et al studied 53 patients (average age, 77 years) after total hip replacement for trochanteric hip fractures. In the study patients, the Harris hip score at 1 month was 66 ± 7; at 3 months, 72 ± 6; at 1 year, 74 ± 5; at 3 years, 76 ± 6; and at the completion of 5-year follow-up (n = 27), 76 ± 8. [13 The average time to return to normal daily activities was 28 days (range, 24-33 days), and no loosening or infection was observed.

Sidhu et al concluded that in mentally healthy elderly patients with trochanteric hip fractures, total hip arthroplasty may be a valid treatment option because it offers the potential for quick recovery with little risk of mechanical failure, it avoids the risks often associated with internal fixation, and it can enable patients to maintain a good level of function immediately after surgery. [13]

Subsequent studies have shown that the dynamic helical hip system results in outcomes that are comparable to those achieved with the dynamic sliding hip screw, and its blade is more resistant to vertical or rotational displacement. [1415]

A meta-analysis of minimally invasive surgery for intertrochanteric fractures reported little difference in the following areas: length of stay, operative time, postoperative pain, complications, mortality, fixation failure, and function.

History and Physical Examination

Elderly patients frequently have other significant coexisting or preexisting pathologic conditions that reduce their ability to resist the stresses of anesthesia, trauma, and surgery and increase their need for extensive postoperative rehabilitation. Coexisting or preexisting conditions that were present but unknown, undiagnosed, or simply tolerable before the fracture may include the following:

  • Pulmonary insufficiency
  • Cardiac insufficiency
  • Mitral valve insufficiency
  • Aortic valve insufficiency
  • Cardiovascular insufficiency
  • Hypertension
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Any of a number of metabolic diseases or endocrine diseases, including diabetes and hypothyroidism; in addition, metabolic changes are consistent with the postoperative stresses from the postoperative analgesics and the postoperative rehabilitation program

A younger patient with a high-energy fracture has usually been in a significant accident and has the potential for multiple other injuries not only to the musculoskeletal system but also to the remainder of the body, especially the head, chest and abdomen.

In view of the potential for these comorbidities or other injuries, a four-stage treatment program is recommended (see Treatment).


Medical complications of intertrochanteric hip fractures are secondary to any preexisting medical conditions that have or have not been recognized, diagnosed, or properly treated, depending on the limitations of time and facilities and the current level of medical care. Medical complications include cardiac, pulmonary, renal, hepatic, and vascular conditions.

Approach Considerations

The presence of coexisting medical conditions is determined by means of a complete physical examination; cardiac, laboratory, and pulmonary studies; and any other studies that may be indicated. Preoperative tests frequently include a complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, an SMA-12 (sequential multiple analysis–12-channel biochemical profile), chest radiography, and electrocardiography (ECG).

Additional tests may be required, depending on the clinical findings, the past and current medical history, and the results of screening laboratory studies and imaging. Any medical abnormalities are treated promptly and appropriately before surgical intervention to ensure that complications do not occur because of any unnecessary delay in initiating surgery. Appropriate measures are instituted to decrease the possibility of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and secondary pulmonary embolism (PE; usually considered a preoperative protocol).

Imaging Studies

Necessary radiographs of the hip include an anteroposterior (AP) view of the pelvis and the involved hip and either a cross-table lateral view or a frog lateral view of the hip. The pelvis radiograph is useful for preoperative planning, particularly to determine the neck shaft angles for placement of cephalomedullary nails.

In some cases, a frog lateral view, computed tomography (CT), or even a reconstituted CT scan of the hip may be necessary to define the fracture in sufficient detail to allow accurate planning of the surgical procedure.

A traction AP radiograph is helpful for further delineating the fracture pattern if significant displacement has occurred.

Approach Considerations

Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) is indicated for all intertrochanteric fractures, unless the patient's medical condition is such that any anesthesia, whether general or spinal, is contraindicated.

Total hip arthroplasty has a limited role in treatment and is usually reserved for patients with coexisting severe symptomatic arthritis of the hip. External fixation is also rarely indicated but is useful as a quick procedure in patients who may not tolerate general or spinal anesthesia and can only tolerate local techniques. Medial displacement osteotomy and valgus reduction are no longer practiced, because of the severe deformities they produced and because of substantial advances in the understanding of fracture fixation.

Surgery is contraindicated if the patient has an uncontrollable or uncorrectable bleeding disorder or another noncorrectable metabolic disorder with an unacceptable mortality. It is also contraindicated if the patient has a stable, nondisplaced intertrochanteric fracture, can physically and mentally tolerate nonsurgical care, and declines surgery for personal reasons.

The future of intertrochanteric fracture repair focuses, in part, on preventing such fractures by means of antiosteoporosis treatments, including medications and health programs. Another focus includes fixation devices that require smaller incisions and are more forgiving, with retention of the fixation, regardless of whether the fracture is ideally reduced or has an element of instability.

A final goal is to eliminate or substantially decrease the mortality and morbidity of postoperative deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) by developing a better understanding of the clotting mechanism and the genetic, metabolic, serologic, and hormonal factors that affect the likelihood of developing PE.

Stages of Treatment

In view of the potential for comorbidities or other injuries (see Presentation), a four-stage treatment program is recommended.

Stage 1

In stage 1, identify the fracture on the basis of the history and the findings from physical examination and radiography. A patient with a low-energy fracture typically presents with a history of slipping on, falling on, or twisting the lower extremity that is followed by severe pain in the affected hip area.

A high-energy injury is secondary to a motor vehicle collision, a fall from a height of more than 3 m, or other significant trauma. Patients will be unable to stand or move their body or the affected extremity without pain. Local physical examination typically reveals the affected lower extremity in a position of hip extension with the leg externally rotated, with the patient experiencing pain on any active or passive motion of the hip or any part of the extremity.

The diagnosis of an intertrochanteric fracture is confirmed by the review of appropriate radiologic images, including an anteroposterior (AP) pelvic view, an AP view of the involved hip, and either a cross-table lateral view of the hip or a frog lateral view of the hip, as well as a traction AP hip radiograph if the surgeon does not fully understand the fracture pattern. A full-length radiograph of the involved femur is necessary to rule out any pathologic process or deformity that may exist distal to the fracture.

These images also define the inherent stability or instability of the fracture, the need for a reduction of the fracture, and whether further manipulation is indicated to produce a reduction sufficiently stable to heal before the implant fixation is lost.

Stage 2

In stage 2, stabilize the patient's medical condition before surgical intervention. This phase almost always requires consultation with an internist, a primary care physician, or a hospitalist and frequently requires secondary consultations with members of various medical subspecialties. This phase also includes identification of any known preexisting medical conditions, as well as any medical condition discovered at the time of hospital admission.

If any medical conditions are discovered, appropriate preoperative care is provided to eliminate potential postoperative problems that may arise from such conditions. These medical conditions are determined by means of a complete physical examination; cardiac, laboratory, and pulmonary studies; and any other studies that may be indicated. Preoperative tests frequently include a complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, an SMA-12 (sequential multiple analysis–12-channel biochemical profile), chest radiography, and electrocardiography (ECG).

Additional tests may be required, depending on the clinical findings, the past and current medical history, and the results of screening laboratory studies and imaging. Any medical abnormalities are treated promptly and appropriately before surgical intervention to ensure that complications do not occur because of any unnecessary delay in initiating surgery. Appropriate measures are instituted to decrease the possibility of DVT and secondary PE (usually considered a preoperative protocol).

Stabilization must be carried out expeditiously. Patients do best if the fracture is stabilized surgically within 24-48 hours of admission to the hospital. This does not mean that these cases are emergencies, but in most instances (unless the patient is critically ill), workup and stabilization must be done and the patient in the operating room (OR) by 48 hours. [17A patient with a high-energy fracture needs a trauma workup and clearance by the hospital trauma team. Surgery is performed as soon as the patient is stable and the right operating team is available.

Stage 3

Stage 3 includes the surgical procedure and postoperative recovery in the acute care hospital. Comanagement of elderly patients by both orthopedic surgery and internal medicine or geriatrics is best. [18Each specialty is responsible for its specific areas of care; with joint management, the patient receives the best care. At discharge, arrangement for follow-up are made. Standard postoperative follow-up care is necessary for all patients. Patients with low-energy fragility fractures should also have follow-up osteoporosis care.

Stage 4

Stage 4 consists of patient rehabilitation, either in the outpatient setting or in a rehabilitation facility. The aim is to achieve the best possible outcome that the injury will allow. In the elderly group, emphasis must be placed on preventing falls and following appropriate exercise and dietary programs.

Surgical Therapy

The patient with an intertrochanteric fracture is ready to proceed with surgery after the medical or trauma evaluation has been completed and the medical conditions have been stabilized without undue delay.

In September 2014, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons released a clinical practice guideline for the management of hip fractures in elderly patients (see Guidelines). [19Recommendations included preoperative regional analgesia, prompt (<24 hours after admission) surgery, intensivce postdischarge physical therapy, and an osteoporosis evaluation.

Preparation for surgery

After appropriate surgical consent has been obtained, the patient is taken to the OR. Correct side identification and patient identification are completed. According to the judgment of the anesthesiologist, the patient is given either general anesthesia or spinal anesthesia. When adequate anesthesia has been administered, the patient is transferred to an orthopedic or fracture table.

The lower extremities are usually attached to the traction apparatus through boots on the feet. The surgeon must confirm that the boots are well fitting, padded, and tightened to ensure that the foot will not pull out with traction. Use of the well leg holder for the nonfractured leg, placing it in a position of hip flexion, abduction and external rotation, should be avoided for fear of postoperative compartment syndrome. [20The scissors position (both legs out straight, with the fractured side in neutral extension and the well side extended at the hip and knee and dropped dorsally) is safer.

Procedural details

After the patient is positioned on the table, a closed reduction of the fracture is performed. The sequence for reduction commences with longitudinal traction in a well-relaxed patient. The fracture is fully extended when the top of the greater trochanter is at the center of the femoral head; at this point, the normal neck shaft angle is restored. The leg is then internally rotated to align the neck with the shaft in the lateral view and to ensure proper anteversion. Appropriate images are obtained with one or two fluoroscopic imaging (C-arm) machines.

If the reduction is not satisfactory, adjustments are made by changing the rotation, abduction, or amount of traction on the affected extremity. Surgery proceeds when an adequate, stable, or near-anatomic reduction is obtained, with correction of any problems with rotation, leg length, lateral angulation, and AP angulation.

Certain fracture patterns cannot be reduced in a closed manner; in such cases, open reduction is required.

A high-energy two-part intertrochanteric fracture is usually widely displaced or impacted in an unreduced position. Both of these situations demand an open reduction. It is sometimes easier to do this without a fracture table and with the patient on a radiolucent table in the supine position with a bump under the hip. Carr has reported on a percutaneous technique for disengaging the medial calcar from the distal shaft and reducing the posterior sag so often seen with these fractures. [21]

If a fracture table is used and placement of a sliding hip screw or short intramedullary hip screw is planned, the lateral hip and femur are prepared and draped with a special drape. If an intramedullary device is used, the whole leg down to the midcalf is prepared and draped to allow distal locking of the nail. Draping will require that the whole leg and body from the costal margin on the involved site be prepared sterilely and draped.

Compression hip screw (sliding hip screw)

A compression hip screw device consists of a screw, pin, or nail inserted into a premade tapped drill hole in the femoral neck and head and an angled side plate placed over the distal end of the screw and fixed with screws to the proximal femoral shaft. The side plate provides a more stable attachment of the device (pin, sliding nail, or screw) in the neck of the femur with the distal femoral shaft as well as allows it to collapse in a controlled manner (see the image below.)

Femur with plate and screws. Femur with plate and screws.

The proximal femur is exposed through an incision extending from the greater trochanter for approximately 8-10 cm distally. The lateral femur is exposed, and a guide wire is drilled from the lateral femur into the femoral head, so that the guide wire is centered in the femoral neck in both the lateral view and the AP view, as shown on the fluoroscopic images.

The angle between the wire and the femoral shaft must equal the angle of the proposed fixation device (usually 135°). The tip of the guide wire must lie in the center of the femoral head and 1 cm from the subchondral line on both the AP and lateral views. This is the tip apex distance (TAD), as described by Baumgaertner. The TAD must be less than 2.5 cm for a minimal screw cutout. [22]

If the guide wire is placed appropriately, the drilled hole is enlarged with the cannulated reamers supplied with the fixation device over the already placed guide wire. The lag screw is inserted into the femoral head after tapping of the drilled channel. Tapping is particularly important in younger patients because the bone in the femoral head is very dense and strong.

The side plate and barrel are placed over the screw, and the guide wire is removed. The side plate is then attached to the femoral shaft with the appropriate screws. Fluoroscopic images are taken throughout the repair to ensure the maintenance of the reduced fracture position and the proper positioning of the fixation device.

Percutaneous hip screw and plate insertion can be accomplished with an implant designed to allow this approach. A prospective, randomized, single-blind study involving patients with A1 and A2 AO/OTA intertrochanteric proximal femoral fractures found that treatment with the Gotfried percutaneous compression plate yielded significantly shorter operating time, significantly shorter incision length, and significantly less blood loss than treatment with the sliding hip screw. [9]

In this study, the patients treated with the Gotfried plate had lower levels of pain with activity, improved quality of life, and a better percent chance of walking independently, but these differences were not significant. [9Given that this study did not differentiate between unstable and stable intertrochanteric fractures, the use of these techniques should be undertaken with caution in unstable fractures.

Cephalomedullary fixation

The cephalomedullary nailing technique is a treatment alternative for intertrochanteric fractures. Multiple thin-diameter solid nails (Enders nails) inserted from the knee in a retrograde fashion were popular in the 1970s and 1980s (see the image below). This technique, however, led to excessive external rotation and knee pain and has been abandoned.

Intertrochanteric fracture with Enders nail. Intertrochanteric fracture with Enders nail.

The use of antegrade nails inserted through the greater trochanter, with a compression hip screw inserted through the proximal portion of the nail into the femoral head, is now being used, especially for unstable fracture patterns. [2324(See the image below.)

Femur with intramedullary rod and screw. Femur with intramedullary rod and screw.

Cephalomedullary fixation may help with reduction of unstable fractures and prevent excessive shortening from collapse, in that the nail acts as a calcar rand lateral wall replacement to support the femoral neck. This percutaneous technique has the potential for less blood loss, earlier full weight-bearing, and better reductions. However, it is technically demanding and has had a high rate of femoral shaft fractures below the nail tip; modifications of nail design have reduced this complication.

After the appropriate fixation device has been placed, the muscles, fascia, and skin are closed. The patient is then transferred to a recovery room.

Medial displacement osteotomy

Medial displacement osteotomy has been employed for unstable intertrochanteric fracture before fixation [25but generally is not indicated in current practice.


Replacement of the hip may be perfomed either by replacing only the femoral side  (hemiarthroplasty) or by replacing both the acetabulum and the femoral side (total hip arthroplasty). These two surgical treatment options, though common for displaced femoral neck fractures in the elderly, have not been a popular form of therapy for intertrochanteric fractures. The reluctance to employ these options is due to the loss of bone at the calcar region of the femur and the difficulty of maintaining the proper abductor muscle tension because of fracture of the trochanter attachments of these muscles. [26]

With improved technology, however, the use of arthroplasty for the older patient with an unstable intertrochantric fracture is a real possiblity. This form of treatment provides immediate stabliity to the hip and allows full weightbearing postoperatively. Either the femoral prosthesis must be a long-stem, long- neck, calcar-replacing type or a bone graft of the calcar region will be required to provide the medial support for the prosthesis. Clinical findings indicate that arthroplasty produces functional results similar to those of compression hip screws or cephalomedullary nails but is associated with greater blood loss, longer operating time, and higher cost. [272829]

Postoperative Care

After an intertrochanteric fracture repair, any nonorthopedic conditions the patient may have continue to be treated. Preventive DVT protocol is followed with an appropriate combination or selection of antiembolism stockings and anticoagulants. The anticoagulants include, but are not limited to, aspirin, heparin or a heparin derivative, and warfarin or a warfarin derivative.

Anticoagulants require appropriate monitoring to ensure adequate dosage and to prevent overmedication and bleeding. With each medication or protocol, the dosage is different, the length of treatment is different, and the combination of medications and use of anticoagulant socks vary. Each treating surgeon needs to ensure that he or she has a protocol for DVT prophylaxis.

Physical therapy is instituted to allow the patient to ambulate with the aid of physical therapists or other nursing personnel. Equipment includes walkers, crutches, four-post canes, and other canes as recommended by the physical therapist and surgeon.

The physical therapist guides therapy and the use of assisted ambulatory supports on the basis of proper instructions from the surgeon. The surgeon indicates the differences between nonweightbearing, toe touching, partial weightbearing, and full weightbearing therapies and the proper techniques for use of various ambulatory devices. In patients of advanced age, it may be difficult to institute therapy beyond full weight-bearing.

In a randomized, controlled pilot study in patients unable to leave home by 6 months post fracture, Mangione et al found that a 10-week home-based progressive resistance exercise program supervised by physical therapists yielded moderate-to-large improvements in physical performance and quality of life. [30 Compared with control subjects, who received transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and mental imagery, patients in the leg exercise group were more likely to have meaningful changes in gait speed and 6-minute walk test distance at 1 year.


Intertrochanteric hip fractures have significant complication rates: 20-30% in the first year, including a 5% nonunion rate, a 5% infection rate, and an 11% rate of device failure. Key measures for preventing complications include the following:

  • Follow a careful preoperative sterilization technique
  • Carry out a careful preoperative study of radiographs
  • Perform meticulous insertion of devices
  • Institute careful postoperative monitoring with radiographs and a clinical examination to ensure healing of the fracture

Systemic complications can occur as consequences of the anesthesia (general or spinal) used in the procedure, the stress imposed by the surgical procedure, or even stress in general.

Local orthopedic complications can occur if an adequate stable reduction of the fracture is not obtained and maintained or if the correct position is lost before healing because of movement associated with daily activities and personal hygiene. Loss of position before healing can also occur if the fixation device fails because of improper insertion or if the fracture does not heal before the end of the mechanical life of the device.