Fractures & Broken Bones
Fractures & broken bones at a glance:
- A fracture is a break in a bone caused by force from a fall, blow, or other traumatic event.
- Symptoms of a fracture include swelling over the injured bone, limb deformity, and pain.
- An open fracture occurs when the broken bone protrudes through the skin, and increases the risk of developing an infection in the wound or bone.
- Conditions like osteoporosis or cancer may weaken the bones, increasing the likeliness of fractures, even with minimal force. These are called pathologic fractures.
- Treatment for a fractured bone depends on the location and severity of the injury. In most cases, immobilization using a cast or splint will be necessary to allow the bone to heal.
Causes of fractures & broken bones
Fractures typically occur as a result of falls, blows, or other types of trauma.
If a patient has a medical condition like osteoporosis or cancer that weakens the bones, pathologic fractures may occur even when very little force is applied to the bone.
Symptoms of fractures & broken bones
The main symptoms of a broken bone are intense pain, swelling, and deformity of the affected body part. Depending on which part of the body is injured, there may also be a loss of function at the site of the broken bone. It is important to have a broken bone examined by a physician or orthopedic specialist.
Types of fractures
There are many different types of fractures, each with corresponding symptoms.
In a closed fracture, the bone is broken but the skin remains intact, while in an open fracture, the broken bone sticks out of the skin.
In a displaced fracture, the bone is broken into two or more misaligned pieces. If the bone is shattered, it is known as a comminuted fracture.
A non-displaced fracture involves a break in the bone without the loss of proper alignment.
Children whose bones are still developing are prone to certain types of fractures.
Greenstick fractures are incomplete fractures where the bone bends instead of breaking.
Stress fractures, or hairline fractures, are another type of injury that is typically caused by repetitive force placed on bones through increased physical activity. Symptoms of a stress fracture include pain, swelling, and tenderness that increase with activity and decrease with rest.
Treatment for fractures & broken bones
See a doctor as soon as possible in the event of a fractured bone. X-rays or MRIs may be necessary to determine the extent of the fracture and the necessary course of treatment.
In most cases, the broken bones will be immobilized using a splint or cast, often for several weeks. Some types of fractures will require surgery to repair the damaged bone.
Pins, screws, and other hardware may be necessary to stabilize the broken pieces of a bone.