Common Fracture

What is a Common Fracture?

A fracture is a broken bone, which can manifest as a complete or partial fracture in various directions – crosswise, lengthwise or into multiple pieces. The severity will depend on the condition of the bone as well as the force it underwent.

Fractures are classified as:

  • Open (compound) – bone protrudes through skin
  • Closed (simple) – skin remains in tact
  • Comminuted – broken into multiple pieces
  • Dislocation – fractures associated with the dislocation of a joint
  • Stress – caused by repetitive stress or strain
  • Pathological – bone is weakened by an underlying condition such as cancer or osteoporosis

Some common fractures include:

  • Hand and wrist
  • Arm: forearm, elbow, humerus
  • Shoulder or clavicle
  • Hip
  • Leg: femur, knee, patella, tibial
  • Ankle and foot

Fractures can happen in a variety of ways. Most are due to trauma or force, with others due to pathological conditions or overuse.

Some causes include:

  • Trauma – injuries sustained from incidents such as falls, vehicle accidents, sporting impacts
  • Osteoporosis – a condition that weakens bones, leaving them more prone to breaks so lesser force can cause a fracture
  • Overuse – continuous force in one location can weaken and cause stress fractures

Intense pain and immobility are common signs of a fracture.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Deformity
  • Bone protrusion and wounds
  • Heat or redness

Sometimes, fracture symptoms can resemble other conditions, so an inspection by a doctor is always recommended.

Bone Anatomy

There are 206 bones in the human body providing its shape, support for the movement, and protection of vital organs. Bones also transport blood and lymphatic fluid as well as house marrow and its vital nutrients.

There are three components to a bone:

  • Compact tissue – the hard outer layer
  • Cancellous tissue – the sponge-like tissue inside
  • Subchondral tissue – the smooth ends of bones, covered by cartilage

While bones are rigid, they do have the capacity to bend and give, but when a force is too great, they can break.

Treatment & Surgery Options

The human body has the ability to heal fractures by forming a blood clot that calcifies to connect broken pieces of bone.

Left unattended, healing can be limited or permanently deform the bone. For a complete recovery assistance will be needed so bones can reconfigure in an anatomically correct way.

In most cases this is simply a plaster, however, surgery may be required if a bone is displaced.

Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Cast immobilization
  • Functional cast or brace
  • Traction (gentle, targeted pulling to align bones)
  • Pain relief medication

Severe or dislocated fractures may require surgery.

Fractures which have not healed are called non-unions, while fractures that heal in the wrong position are called malunions. These may require further surgery to be corrected.

Open Reduction and Internal Fixation

This procedure involves the repositioning of damaged bone fragments into their normal position, then fixed into place with special screws or attachments.

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