What is a fracture?

A fracture is a partial or complete break in the bone that occurs when there is more force applied to the bone than the bone can absorb. Breaks in bones can occur from falls, trauma or as a result of a direct blow or kick to the body. When a fracture occurs, it is classified as either open or closed:

  • Open fracture (also called compound fracture) Involves a bone that breaks cleanly into two pieces and pierces the skin.
  • Closed fracture (also called simple fracture) Occurs when the bone breaks cleanly into two pieces, and the skin remains intact.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain and swelling in the injured area
  • Obvious deformity in the injured area
  • Difficulty using or moving the injured area in a normal manner
  • Warmth, bruising or redness in the injured area

The symptoms of a broken bone may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

What treatment options are available?

The goal of treatment is to control the pain, promote healing, prevent complications and restore normal use of the fractured area. An open fracture (one in which the bone exits and is visible through the skin) is considered an emergency. Seek immediate medical attention for this type of fracture.

Treatment may include:

  • Splint or cast. This immobilizes the injured area to promote bone alignment and healing to protect the injured area from motion or use.
  • Medication. This is taken to control pain.
  • Traction. Traction is the application of a force to stretch certain parts of the body in a specific direction. Traction consists of pulleys, strings, weights and a metal frame attached over or on the bed. The purpose of traction is to stretch the muscles and tendons around the broken bone to allow the bone ends to align and heal.
  • Surgery. Surgery may be required to put certain types of broken bones back into place. Occasionally, internal fixation (metal rods or pins located inside the bone) or external fixation devices (metal rods or pins located outside of the body) are used to hold the bone fragments in place to allow alignment and healing.