A hip fracture often renders an individual immovile and is very painful. Often, the patient calls an ambulance and is brought to the emergency room immediately, and then we operate within 24 hours, says Dr. Michael D. O'Brien, a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon. On occasion, however, complications prevent surgery for a couple of days. For example, if it's an older person living alone, the patient may not be able to call immediately becuase they can't get to a phone. This is one reason that it's a good idea for an elderly person to have a cell phone or some type of emergency notification device, like a fall alarm.
Further, today many older people take anticoagulation medication - blood thinners like Plavix and Coumadin - so blood loss within the fracture can be an issue. Finally, some patients have pre-existing conditions, such as a pneumonia or heart irregularities. All of these types of potential complications need to be addressed before we operate. At a max, however, we prefer not to wait more than three days.