Bone Fracture – Types, Symptoms, Causes, Complications and more

BONE FRACTURE

What is Bone Fracture?

Bone Fracture

Bone fractures are broken bones. A bone fracture happens when external pressure or force is applied that leads to the breakage of the bone. A fracture is called a wound of the bone.

A bone fracture happens when the force applied makes the bone bend, and the fibres start to tear on the convex side.

There will be a break in the continuity of the bone when a bone fracture happens. The other causes of bone fracture are due to medical conditions like osteoporosis and cancer.

Types of Bone Fracture

The bones are the hardest organ in our body yet, they break when external pressure is applied to a great extent.

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The severity of the fracture depends on the external force applied. If the force applied was light, then the bones will not break. Instead, there will be a crack in the bone.

If the external force applied was to a great extent like an accident or a gunshot, the bone may shatter.

The bone might break in such a way that the broken bone sticks out of the skin. These types of fractures are called open fractures.

These types of fractures may cause damage since the infection onsets in the injured skin and the bone.

Some of the common types of fractures are mentioned below.

Transverse Fracture

When the fracture happens perpendicular to the bone length it is called a transverse fracture. These types of fractures can happen to any bone in your body. These fractures are common after a trauma-like accident.

Spiral Fracture

Spinal fractures are not the same as a fracture that happens in your legs and hands. When the vertebrae are dislocated or fractured, the bone fragments that are broken pinches and damage the spinal cord or the nerve.

These fractures are caused due to accidents, gunshots, falls and also because of sports injuries.

The severity of the injury ranges from mild ligament tear and muscle strains to fractures and dislocation of bone. Spiral injuries are common when there is a sudden jerk or when your body moves from the usual position.

Greenstick Fracture

Greenstick fracture occurs when the bone cracks. The bone bends in such a way that it cracks instead of snapping into two pieces. The fracture is similar to what happens when you try to break a small branch from a tree.

Greenstick fracture is common in children younger than 10 years. These are common in children because children’s bones are soft and more flexible than adults.

Stress Fracture

Stress fractures are common in athletes. Stress fractures are overuse injuries, when repetitive force is applied to a particular region there will be damage to the bone. The damage is microscopic.

The stress fracture does not cause any damage like a broken leg. When stress is continuously applied to a particular region, the weight-bearing bone and the support muscles are damaged due to stress, as they don’t have any time to recover.

Foot and ankle are the common bones that are affected by a stress fracture. The bones affected by stress fracture are

  • Calcaneus (heel).
  • Fibula (outer bone of the lower leg and ankle).
  • Talus (lower bone in the ankle joint).
  • Sesamoids (two small bones associated with the tendons of the big toe)
  •  Navicular (bone on the top of the midfoot).

Compression Fracture

A compression fracture is caused due to a break in the vertebrae. Such fractures can collapse your vertebrae and make them short.

These collapses can cause the bones to press against the spinal cord nerves, as a result, the blood and oxygen to the spinal cord reduce.

Osteoporosis is the common cause of compression fracture. Other causes of compression fracture are car accidents, sports injuries and tumours in the spine.

Oblique Fracture

An oblique fracture happens when the line of break goes all the way through the bone. Oblique fractures are also called as a complete fracture.

These fractures are common in long bones like the femur (thigh), tibia (shin), fibula (calf), humerus (upper arm), radius and ulna (forearm) and clavicle (collarbone).

These fractures are caused due to falls. Depending on the trauma people might need surgery or a cast to heal the broken bone.

Impacted Fracture

An impacted fracture is also called a buckle fracture. The fractured piece of bone impacts another bone.

These types of fractures are common in children’s arms.

Segmental Fracture

When the segment of the broken bone is completely separated from the bone, it is classified as a segmental fracture. These fractures are mostly seen in long bones.

Segmental fractures are caused by traumas like a car accident and a fall from a high place. These fractures will need surgery to heal. People affected by this fracture will take one year to recover.

Comminuted Fracture

A comminuted fracture happens when the bone is broken into more than two fragments. These fractures are caused when the trauma is very severe like a fall from a high building or car accident.

The comminuted fracture needs surgery to heal when it happens to long bones. The short bones heal by themselves.

Avulsion Fracture

Avulsion fracture happens when a small chunk of bone attached to a ligament or a tendon gets pulled away.

The tendons connect two bones and help the bones to be in place. When the small chunk of bone is moved, it causes the ligament to move to the opposite direction.

These fractures are common when you suddenly change to the opposite direction. Elbow bones, ankles and foot bones, knee bones, pelvis and hip bones spine bones are commonly affected by this fracture.

Symptoms of Bone Fracture

Symptoms of bone fracture may differ from person to person.

Difficulty using the limb

When your bone is broken or fractured you will have difficulty moving your limbs.

Noticeable

The fracture pain and wounds will be noticeable.

Severe pain

The bones are connected to the pain fibres. When the bone is broken, the pain fibres get irritated and cause pain.

The blood vessels and fibres attached to the bones are also pulled off by the broken bone.   

When the blood vessels and fibres are damaged due to external force, they cause extreme pain. Pain can differ depending on the type of fracture.

Swelling

The broken bones start to bleed and the associated blood tissues swell and they in turn cause pain.

The muscles that surround the broken bone may swell when they try to hold the broken bone in place.

Causes of Bone Fracture

Bones are resilient and can withstand impacts. They tend to break or crack when the force is enough to break them.

When the bones cannot withstand the external pressure applied, they tend to break.

Fall from a height

One of the most common causes of bone fracture is a fall from a height. The bones hit the surface with great pressure and the bone breaks.

Trauma

Trauma like car accidents can happen to anyone. These traumas can cause extreme pain and suffering.

Motor vehicle accidents

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the common causes of fractures.

Direct blow

Blunt trauma or the force can cause fractures. A direct blow or kick to the body can impact the bone and cause a fracture.

Child abuse

Children have soft tissues and develop bones at a young age. When there is stress applied to the bones they break and cause a fracture

Repetitive forces

When a particular bone or tissue is overused, it tends to break. These types of fractures are common in athletes.

Bone Fracture Tests

If there is pain caused by any trauma or fall visit your doctor. The doctor may examine your physical condition and may suggest for a certain test to signify the fractures.

X- Rays

The invisible electromagnetic beams hit the bones and when the bone is broken, they pass through the bone and indicate the broken bone on the recorded film.

They give a clear image of the bone. X-rays work best for bone imaging.

Bone Scan

A bone scan involves radiotracers, that detect broken bones.

CT Scan

The CT scan for bone fracture assesses the broken bone, damaged joints, lesions and fractures and other abnormalities.

CT scan is used when the other physical examination is not conclusive.

MRI Scan

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) helps to detect bone injuries. MRI scan gives a detailed image of the bone and damaged soft tissues.

Complications of Bone Fracture

Bone treatments heal when appropriate treatment is given. However, all bone fractures will not require treatment or surgery. Some fractures can heal by themselves.

During the process of healing, some complications can occur.

Bone heals in the wrong position

When the bone fracture is healing, it may tend to heal in the wrong position. The bones may shift during the healing process.

Disruption of bone growth

When the bone is disrupted during a development stage, this affects the development of the bone.

Such incidents can raise the risk of deformity in the future.

Bone Marrow infection

When there is a break or crack in the bone that is visible through your skin, these fractures are called compound fractures.

There might be an infection that can enter through your skin and chances are there to infect your bone marrow.

Bone Death

Bone death happens in extreme cases. When the bone loses the ability to supply blood, this condition is termed as bone death.

This condition is called as avascular necrosis.

Prevention of Bone Fracture

Bone fractures can be avoided by following a few simple steps. It requires few lifestyle changes.

Avoid falls

Loss of traction is a common cause of fracture. When there is less contact between the person’s foot and floor, loss of footing occurs and you tend to fall.

As people age, reflexes may slow down. Changes in muscle and body mass may also play an important role during the fall.

Avoid sudden falls or movement. Your bone is strong and brittle, yet, they tend to break when force is applied to a great extent.

Stay Fit

Weight-bearing exercise and strength training may help your bone to be strong. Always make it a habit to work out. Physical exercise not only makes you fit but also trains your mind.

Eat Right

A person’s diet may have a strong impact on their health. Consume good quantity of calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones healthy.

When to see a doctor?

When you had a bad fall and the swelling is visible, consult your doctor immediately.

When there is an open fracture (the broken bone being visible through the skin), consult your doctor.

These types of fractures can cause infection and lead to bone death. Sometimes, the broken bone can be an internal injury and your body gives signs like pain and swelling.

If there are such symptoms consult your doctor immediately.

Conclusion

A fracture is a broken bone and for the bone to heal, it requires medical assistance. Fractures can range from small cracks to breaking into two fragments.

Fractures can happen due to physical trauma, overuse and other health condition like osteoporosis. Bones weaken as you age and can increase the risk of fractures.

Do not try to turn your bone when fractured. Seek medical help immediately to avoid complications.

FAQ’s

1.Will a fracture heal on its own?

Most fractures can heal by themselves. Still, fractures need medical intervention for your bones to heal.

2.How do I best avoid bone fractures?

Strength training may help you to strengthen your bones. Keep your rooms well-lit and use a skid-free mat to avoid any falls.

3.How does a fracture occur?

Fractures happen when the force applied is to a great extent and the bones cannot withstand it anymore. When bones are twisted, they break.

4.What happens when the bone breaks?

When an external force is applied such that the bone cannot withstand the force, they break. The broken bone disturbs the structure and strength of the bone and causes pain and swelling.

5.What kind of doctor treat broken bones?

An Orthopaedic surgeon or orthopaedic trauma doctor treats fractures.

6.Is a broken bone stronger than it was before?

There is no evidence for a broken bone to be stronger than before after healing.

7.Are there any complications in bone healing?

While the bone is healing there are complications like bone death, bone healing in the wrong direction and bacterial infection.

8.What is the most common injury to the bone?

Common bone fractures are collarbone fracture, wrist fracture, vertebral fracture, hip fracture, ankle fracture and forearm fracture.

9.How long does it take to recover from a bone injury?

The bone takes about 6-8 weeks to heal.

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