A fracture is a partial or complete break in the bone.

There are two kinds of fractures:

  • Simple fracture – The bone is broken but does not exit the skin
  • Compound fracture – The bone is broken and exits the skin.  The bone might or might not be visible in the wound

How do fractures happen?

When more force is applied to the bone than the bone can withstand, a fracture might occur. There are three common causes of fractures:

  • Trauma – A fall or car accident
  • Osteoporosis – A degenerative bone disease that causes bones to become fragile and break easily
  • Overuse or stress fractures – Common type of fracture among athletes

The symptoms of a broken bone can resemble other medical conditions so always seek a diagnosis from a medical professional.

What are common symptoms?

  • Pain or tenderness in the injured area
  • Swelling in the injured area
  • Deformity in the injured area
  • Inability to move the injured area
  • Warmth, bruising or redness in the injured area

How is a fracture diagnosed?

In addition to a physical examination, a physician might order one or more of the following tests:

  • X-ray – Invisible electromagnetic energy beams are used to produce images of internal tissue, bones and organs onto film.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – A non-invasive procedure that uses large magnets to produce detailed images of organs, bones and tissues within the body.
  • Computed Tomography Scan (CT) – A non-invasive test that produces cross-sections of the body through computer technology and x-rays.

Click here for information about St. Clair Hospital’s Medical Imaging services.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  1. What will my treatment include?
  2. Are you board certified? Click here to search for a doctor in our online physician directory.
  3. When will I be able to resume day-to-day activities?
  4. What kind of limitations can I expect as I recover?

What’s the healing process?

The healing process begins as soon as a fracture occurs. To protect the injured area, the body will form a blood clot and a callus, and new bone cells will start to grow on both sides of the fracture. The new bone cells will start to grow toward each other, absorbing the callous and closing the fracture.

What are the treatments for fractures?

A physician can use a cast, splint, pins or other devices to hold bones and supporting tissues in place. The goal is to control the pain, promote healing and prevent complications. Surgery is not uncommon but is not always needed. Physicians will consider a patient’s age, overall health, medical history, and the extent of his or her condition before choosing a treatment plan.

How will pain be controlled?

It is important to rest  as much as possible for the first two to three days. A physician might also recommend over-the-counter pain medication. If pain persists, a physician might prescribe a stronger  medication.

What’s a typical follow-up and rehabilitation schedule?

An orthopedic physician will want to see a patient in three to four weeks, depending on the severity of the injury, to monitor progress.

After a physician removes a cast or bandage, a patient’s ligaments might feel weak from non-use. A physician might recommend physical therapy to help regain strength. Treatment will involve muscle-building exercises and a gradual increase in activity until the healing process is complete.

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