Falls cause bone fractures. So do accidents. A bone fracture is a medical condition in which a bone is cracked or broken. Many fractures result from high force impact or stress.
Bone fractures also develop from medical conditions that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis, certain types of cancer or osteogenesis imperfecta.
Fractures are classified in many ways. A simple, closed fracture is much easier to treat than an open, contaminated fracture:
- In a closed fracture, the skin is intact. An open or compound fracture involves wounds that communicate with the fracture and may expose the bone to contamination. Open fractures carry a higher risk of infection, require antibiotics and usually surgical treatment (debridement), to remove dirt, contamination and dead tissue.
- A simple fracture occurs along only one line. It splits the bone into two pieces. Multi-fragmentary fractures occur when the bone splits into multiple pieces.
- Compression fractures occur when the front portion of a vertebra in the spine collapses due to osteoporosis.
All forms of treatment of broken bones follow one basic rule: the broken pieces must be put back into position and prevented from moving out of place until they are healed. In many cases, the doctor will restore parts of a broken bone back to the original position. The technical term for this process is “reduction”.
Broken bone ends heal by “knitting” back together with new bone being formed around the edge of the broken parts.
Surgery is sometimes required to treat a fracture. The type of treatment required depends on the severity of the break, whether it is “open” or “closed”, and the specific bone involved. For example, a broken bone in the spine (vertebra) is treated differently from a broken leg bone or a broken hip.
Our doctors us a variety of treatments to treat fractures:
A fiberglass cast is the most common type of fracture treatment, because most broken bones can heal successfully once they have been repositioned and a cast has been applied to keep the broken ends in proper position while they heal.
The brace allows limited or “controlled” movement of nearby joints. This treatment is desirable for some, but not all, fractures.
Traction is usually used to align a bone or bones by a gentle, steady pulling action.
In this type of operation, metal pins or screws are placed into the broken bone above and below the fracture site. The pins or screws are connected to a metal bar outside the skin. This device is a stabilizing frame that holds the bones in the proper position while they heal.
In cases where the skin and other soft tissues around the fracture are badly damaged, an external fixator may be applied until surgery can be tolerated.
Open Reduction and Internal Fixation
During this operation, the bone fragments are first repositioned (reduced) in their normal alignment, and then held together with special screws or by attaching metal plates to the outer surface of the bone. The fragments may also be held together by inserting rods down through the marrow space in the center of the bone.
Fractures take several weeks to several months to heal, depending on the extent of the injury and how well you follow your doctor’s advice. Pain usually stops long before the fracture is solid enough to handle the stresses of normal activity.
Even after your cast or brace is removed, you may need to continue limiting your movement until the bone is solid enough for normal activity.
During your recovery you will likely lose muscle strength in the injured area. Specific exercises will help you restore normal muscle strength, joint motion, and flexibility.