A fracture, also known as a broken bone, is a condition that changes the contour or shape of the bone. 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.
Fractures are actually very common and can be caused by a number of things. People break bones in sports injuries, car accidents, falls, or from osteoporosis (bone weakening due to aging). Although most fractures are caused by trauma, they can be caused by an underlying disease such as cancer or severe osteoporosis. There are more than one million “fragility” fractures every year that are due to osteoporosis. At Baptist Health our board-certified orthopedic surgeons have advanced training and expertise and can provide complete care when it comes to any type of fracture.
Different types of fractures include:
- A fracture can be closed (the skin is not broken) or open, which is also called a compound fracture (the skin is open and the risk of infection significant).
- Some fractures are displaced (there is a gap between the two ends of the bone). These often require surgery.
- A partial fracture is an incomplete break of a bone.
- A complete fracture is a complete break of a bone, causing it to be separated into two or more pieces.
- A stress fracture, sometimes called a “hairline fracture,” is like a crack and may be difficult to see with regular X-rays.
Signs and symptoms of fractures throughout the body include:
- Arm: Pain, swelling, abnormal bend, difficulty using or moving, warmth, bruising, or redness
- Elbow: Pain, swelling, bruising, stiffness, a ‘pop’ noise at the time of fracture, or visible deformity
- Wrist: Pain, swelling, decreased use of hand and wrist, a crooked or deformed appearance, and unable to hold a grip
- Hand: Pain, swelling, tenderness to touch, stiffness, and weakness. Deformities are not always common.
- Finger: Pain, swelling, unable to move the finger, a shortened finger, or a depressed knuckle
- Leg: Severe pain, swelling, tenderness, bruising, obvious deformity, and the inability to walk
- Knee: Pain, swelling, bruising, inability to straighten the knee and the inability to walk
- Ankle: Severe pain, swelling, tenderness to touch, bruising, deformity, and the inability to walk
- Foot: Severe pain, swelling, bruising, numbness in toes and foot, decreased range of motion, inability to walk comfortably, and visible deformity
- Toe: Pain, swelling, discoloration, and bruising. You should be able to walk, but not comfortably.
If a fracture is suspected you should always seek medical treatment. The goal of treatment is to control the pain, promote healing, prevent complications and restore normal use of the fractured area.
Treatment may include:
- Splint or casting will immobilizes the injured area to promote bone alignment and healing to protect the injured area from motion or use.
- Medication to control pain.
- 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 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.