The bone fracture is a medical term for a broken bone. Bone fractures usually occur during physical force on the bone which is stronger than the bone itself. Bone fractures are usually caused by a falls, blows or other traumatic events.
The risk of bone fractures depends on person’s age and lifestyle. Experience has shown that bone fractures are very common among children. It should be mentioned, that children bone fractures are less complicated than adults bone fractures, because with age bones become more brittle and adult is more likely to suffer bone fractures from various physical activities which would not occur when this adult was young.
There are many types of bone fractures, but the main categories of bone fractures are open, closed, displaced and non-displaced. The case when the bone breaks into two or more parts, moving so that ends are not connecting, is called displaced fracture. The case when the bone cracks in some part or throughout but moves and maintains its proper alignment, is called non-displaced fracture. The case when the bone breaks but there is no open wound or puncture in the skin is called closed fracture. The case when the bone breaks through the skin is called open fracture. It should be mentioned, that with an open fracture there is a risk of a deep bone infection, therefore, they must be cleaned thoroughly to avoid any infection.
Of course, there are a lot of other bone fracture types as well. The most common of them are:
- Greenstick fracture is a small, slender crack in the bone;
- Hairline fracture may be a stress fracture which occurs in the foot or lower leg as a result of repeated stress during such physical activities as running or jogging;
- Complicated fracture includes injured structures which surround the fracture, for example, damaged lining of the bone, veins, arteries or even nerves.
- Comminuted fracture is the case when the bone is shattered into small pieces;
- Avulsion fracture is the case when powerful contractions of muscles wrench the tendon and pull out pieces of the bone;
- Compression fracture occurs when two bones are forced against each other.
In general the severity of the bone fracture depends on its locations and the damage which is done to the bone and tissue near it. It should be mentioned, that serious bone fractures can have dangerous complications if they are not treated properly, for example, damages blood vessels or nerves, infection of the bone or surrounding tissue. Recovery time after bone fractures varies depending on the age and health of the patient, and the severity and type of bone fracture.
Symptoms of bone fracture:
- Swelling or bruising in the area of injury;
- Deformity of an injured body part;
- Pain in the injured area which gets worse during motion or pressure;
- Loss of functions in the injured area;
- Protruding bones from the skin
The most of bone fractures can be recognized by examination of injury and by taking x-rays, but there are some cases when x-ray does not show a fracture. In these cases doctors perform other tests, for example, computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging or bone scan. Even after diagnosis of bone fracture, patient needs other tests as well, for example, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging or angiogram to find out whether other surrounding tissues are damaged.
Bone fractures often requires treatment at a hospital. Bone fractures which do not require emergency care is a tip of a toe fracture, but bone fractures in back, neck or hip need immediate help – in cases of such bone fractures patient cannot be moved and someone has to call 911 for emergency help. Before transporting injured area has to be protected to avoid further damages, for example, for broken leg or arm you can put a splint to prevent movement, but if there is a bleeding, you have to apply some pressure to stop it and only then splint and elevate the fracture.
Fractured bones are set in proper place and held there for proper healing – setting of bone is called “reduction”. Repositioning of bone which does not include surgery is called “closed reduction”, but more serious bone fractures usually require repositioning which includes surgery or, in other words, “open reduction”. There are specific situations where devices such as glue, rods, screws, plates and pins are used to hold the bone in the proper place.
When bone setting is done, most of bone fractures are immobilized with a traction, cast or splint to reduce pain and help healing. In most cases, recovery includes different medications which reduce pain. In cases of open fractures, patient has to use antibiotics to avoid any infection.
After recovery, when cast of splint is removed, the area of the fracture may be stiff for some period of time. There also may be some swelling, bumps, limp and increased hair on the legs or arms due to irritation of the hair follicles caused by cast or splint.
After removing of cast or splint patient should gradually begin to use the injured area again, because it may take another 4 to 6 weeks for the bone to regain the past strength.