Health

Understanding Bone Fractures: The Basics

The medical condition where the bone’s continuity is broken is referred to as fracture or bone fracture.

Fractures can range from a thin crack down to a complete break.

It can also be lengthwise, crosswise, into many pieces, and in several places.

In most cases, fractures occur when the bone is impacted by more pressure or force than it can actually support.

Symptoms

Intense pain often accompanies fractures, especially during the initial injury.

The pain can get more severe when the injured area is moved or touched.

Others can also feel dizzy and pass out because of the intense pain.

Other common symptoms of fracture include:

  • Bruising, redness, and swelling of the area injured
  • Grinding or snapping sound when the injury occurs
  • Noticeable deformity in the injured area
  • Difficulty bearing weight
  • In some cases, broken bone can be seen poking through the skin

Types

Bone fractures can be classified as open or closed and complete or incomplete.

Open

Also known as compound fracture, an open fracture occurs when the end of the broken bone tears through the skin.

When the bone alongside other internal tissues are exposed, it makes the patient more susceptible to infection.

Closed

Otherwise referred to as simple fracture, a closed fracture occurs when the broken bone does not break through the skin.

Complete

When the bone breaks completely, a complete fracture occurs.

Some of the most common types of complete fracture include:

  • Comminuted fracture – bone is crushed or broken into three (or more) pieces.
  • Displaced fracture – bone is broken into pieces and moved out of its normal alignment.
  • Compression fracture – bone collapses under pressure.
  • Single fracture – bone is broken in one place but into two pieces.
  • Nondisplaced fracture – bone is broken into several pieces but stays in their normal alignment.
  • Segmental fracture – bone is broken in two places, leaving at least one segment unattached and floating.

Children are more prone to incomplete fractures as their bones are softer.

That being said, the bones are more likely to bend as opposed to break.

Complete fractures on the other hand can occur at any age.

Incomplete

In incomplete fractures, the bone does not break completely.

That means it cracks but does not break all the way through.

The most common types of incomplete fractures include:

  • Greenstick fracture – one is broken on one side and bent on the other.
  • Hairline fracture – bone is broken in a thin crack.
  • Torus or Buckle fracture – bone is broken on one side while a raised buckle or bump occurs on the other side.

Causes

When impacted with force or pressure greater than it can support, fractures will occur.

The strength of the force will also often determine the fracture’s severity.

Other possible causes of fractures include:

  • Direct strikes to the body
  • Traumatic events (i.e. gunshot wounds or vehicle accidents)
  • Fall
  • Sports injuries

Treatment

Treatment plan for fracture will depend on two key components—the type of fracture and the location.

Essentially, the doctor will put the broken bone pieces in their proper places and stabilize it to hasten healing.

Keeping the broken bone immobile until completely healed is considered crucial.

During the healing process, new bones will form around the edges of the broken pieces.

Given that it’s properly stabilized and aligned, the new bone will connect the pieces over time.

A cast may be used to help stabilize the broken bone.

In rare cases, a traction may be used to stabilize the area injured.

A traction works by stretching the tendons and muscles found around the bone.

Compound fractures and other complex cases may require surgery.

The doctor may perform open reduction and external or internal fixation to keep the fractured bones from moving.

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