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Bone fractures

Date: 2024-02-13

Causes of bone fractures

Causes of bone fractures can include:

  • traumatic incidents such as sporting injuries, vehicle accidents and falls
  • conditions such as osteoporosis and some types of cancer that cause bones to fracture more easily, meaning even minor trauma and falls can become serious.

Symptoms of bone fractures

Fractures are different from other injuries to the skeleton such as dislocations, although in some cases it can be hard to tell them apart. Sometimes, a person may have more than one type of injury. If in doubt, treat the injury as if it is a fracture.

The symptoms of a fracture depend on the particular bone and the severity of the injury, but may include:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • deformity
  • inability to use the limb.

Complications of bone fractures

Other problems caused by bone fracture can include:

  • Blood loss – bones have a rich blood supply. A bad break can make you lose a large amount of blood.
  • Injuries to organs, tissues or surrounding structures – for example the brain can be damaged by a skull fracture. Chest organs can be injured if a rib breaks.
  • Stunted growth of the bone – if a child’s long bone breaks close to the joint where the growth plates are found.

Diagnosis of bone fractures

Doctors can diagnose bone fractures with x-rays. They may also use CT scan (computed tomography) and MRI scans (magnetic resonance imaging).

Treatment of bone fractures

Broken bones heal by themselves – the aim of medical treatment is to make sure the pieces of bone are lined up correctly. The bone needs to recover fully in strength, movement and sensitivity. Some complicated fractures may need surgery or surgical traction (or both).

Depending on where the fracture is and how severe, treatment may include:

  • splints – to stop movement of the broken limb
  • braces – to support the bone
  • plaster cast – to provide support and immobilise the bone
  • traction – a less common option
  • surgically inserted metal rods or plates – to hold the bone pieces together
  • pain relief – to reduce pain.

Operation procedure for bone fractures

A cast made from plaster of Paris is one of the most common ways of immobilising a limb. This cast is made from a preparation of gypsum that sets hard when water is added. Depending on the location and severity of the fracture, the operation procedures can include:

  • Closed or simple fractures – the 2 ends of the broken bone are lined up and held in place. The limb is thoroughly bandaged, then the wet plaster is applied. Sometimes, once the plaster is dry, the cast is split into 2 and the 2 halves are re-bandaged on the outside. This allows for any swelling that may occur.
  • Open or compound fractures – these are thoroughly cleaned in the operating room to remove debris before being set, because a broken bone exposed to the open air may become infected.
  • Long bones – long bones such as the bone of the thigh (femur) are difficult to keep aligned. In adults these are often treated by internal nailing. A child may need traction for a couple of days before setting the bone in a cast. Once the 2 ends of bone start to show signs of healing, the leg and hip joint are immobilised in plaster of Paris. In other cases, pins are inserted above and below the fracture and secured to an external frame or ‘fixator’. This is done under a general anaesthetic.
view:233updated date:2024-03-13
view:233updated date:2024-03-13