Fracture

Definition

A fracture is a break in any bone in the body. The bone may be partly or fully broken. It may also stick through the skin or stay inside the skin.

The Bones of the Body

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Causes

This injury is caused by trauma from:

  • Falls
  • Severe twists
  • Severe bending of a bone
  • Blows
  • Stress on a weakened bone
  • A motor vehicle accident
  • Gunshot wounds

Babies can also some types of fractures as they pass through the birth canal.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of a fracture are:

  • Health problems that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis
  • Health problems that may cause falls, such as nerve or muscle problems
  • Low muscle mass
  • Playing contact sports
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Poor nutrition
  • A sudden increase in activity
  • Being around violence
  • Side effects from some medicines, such as those used to treat cancer

Symptoms

Symptoms may be:

  • Pain
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Problems moving the injured body part
  • Numbness
  • A change in the way the body part looks

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will be asked how the injury happened. An exam will be done.

Images may be taken. This can be done with:

Treatment

It can take three weeks for a mild fracture to heal. It may take many months for a severe fracture of a long bone to heal. The goals of treatment are to manage pain and support the bone as it heals. Options may be:

  • Medicine to ease pain
  • A splint, brace, cast, or sling to keep bones in place as they heal
  • Crutches to take weight off of a broken bone
  • Exercises to help with muscle strength and range of motion

Children's bones have growth plates that let bones grow and harden with age. A child with a fracture may need to be checked over time to make sure the bone heals the right way and keeps growing.

Putting Bones Back In Place

Some fractures cause pieces of bone to come apart. These pieces will need to be put back into place. This may be done:

  • Without surgery—anesthesia will be used to ease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
  • With surgery—pins, screws, plates, rods, or wires may be used to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place

Prevention

Most fractures are due to accidents. Healthy bones and muscles may prevent some injuries. This may be done through diet and exercise.

RESOURCES:

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
http://www.sportsmed.org
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

References:

Distal radius fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname... . Accessed September 25, 2019.
Femoral shaft fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname... . Accessed September 24, 2019.
Fractures: an overview. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 2012. Accessed September 25, 2019.
Middle phalanx finger fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Accessed September 24, 2019.
Welck MJ, Hayes T, et al. Stress fractures of the foot and ankle. Injury 2017 Aug;48(8):1722.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 9/25/2019

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