Fracture Care 101

What is a fracture? A fracture is a medical term for a broken bone. Fractures are common and can happen to people of any age. There are several different types of fractures and some medical conditions that can make some patients more susceptible to fractures. Types of fractures? There are many different kinds of fracture. Here we will highlight five basic types.

  • Stable fracture: With a stable fracture, the ends of the broken bone are barely out of place and do not need any realignment.
  • Open, compound fracture: An open, compound fracture occurs when the force of the break causes an open wound, or the bone goes through the skin where the fracture happened.
  • Transverse fracture: A transverse fracture occurs in a horizontal line across the bone.
  • Oblique fracture: An oblique fracture causes the bone to break on an angle.
  • Comminuted fracture: When this type of fracture occurs, the bone shatters into three or more pieces.
Symptoms of a fracture Even though there are many different ways that a fracture can occur, there are primary symptoms that are present whenever a bone breaks. These symptoms can include pain, swelling, tenderness, bruising, numbness or tingling, difficulty moving the injured body part, and deformity Fracture risk factors Different things can cause a person to be at a higher risk of suffering a bone fracture. Some of the risk factors include:
  • Age: Bone loss and structural damage with aging can lead to fragile bones. Statistics have shown that fragility fractures exceed 2 million each year in the United States.
  • Gender: According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, up to one-half of the women that are over 50 will experience a bone fracture in their lifetime. This is primarily the result of postmenopausal bone loss.
  • Diseases: These include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease, primary hyperparathyroidism, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, COPD, diabetes, untreated hyperthyroidism, and certain neurological disorders.
  • Medications: These medications are included because they can cause bone loss, falls, and fractures. They include synthetic glucocorticoids (prednisone, dexamethasone), cancer drugs, proton pump inhibitors for heartburn, contraceptive Depo-Provera, anti-seizure drugs, some antidepressants, sleep and antipsychotic medications, medications for hypertension, diuretics, prostate drugs, and others.
Treatment of fractures Once the location and the type of injury have been diagnosed, your doctor will decide what treatment method will work best to help your fractured bone heal. The treatment method will also depend on the severity and type of fracture. When your bones are fractured, they need to be held together in the correct position until they heal. In some cases, it’s necessary for the doctor the readjust the bones and use traction to put them back into the right place. The most commonly used method to treat a fracture is cast immobilization. A plaster or fiberglass cast is applied to the fracture, keeping the ends of the bones in the proper position as they heal. The amount of time that this cast is in place can vary. In the most severe cases, such as an open fracture, surgery may be necessary. Surgery may be performed (internal fixation) to fix a broken bone using metal screws, pins, rods, or plates. These are used to hold the bone in place and typically are permanent. External fixation is also an option but is reserved as a last option. This type of surgery includes the use of pins and wires secured to external scaffolding that provides support to the limb.

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