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OBJECTIVE--To study the mortality and morbidity associated with proximal femoral fractures with reference to fracture type (intracapsular and extracapsular). DESIGN--Consecutive prospective study with 12 month follow ups. SETTING--Two British trauma receiving centres. PATIENTS--1000 consecutive acute proximal femoral fractures (fractured necks of femur) in 972 patients. RESULTS--Significantly higher mortality at one year was seen in patients with extracapsular fractures (188/490; 38%) than in those with intracapsular fractures (147/510; 29%; p < 0.01). Greater morbidity was experienced during the study period by patients with extracapsular fractures, who were less mobile and less independent at the time of their injury. CONCLUSIONS--The rise in average age of presentation with proximal femoral fracture is associated with a persistently high mortality (33%) and morbidity, greater in patients with an extracapsular fracture. Comparison with other studies, principally from outside Britain, is difficult, but despite advancing standards of care the mortality and morbidity of femoral neck fractures remains high, placing an ever increasing burden on the health service.