How are fractures treated?

Fractures are treated in a variety of ways. The intention of most treatments is to realign the fractured bones in their original orientation and then to eliminate movement so the bones can heal. Realignment of the bone pieces in a fracture is known as reduction of the fracture. Treatment can vary from using ice and pain relievers (for a mild broken nose) to immediate emergency surgery.

Because an untreated fracture can have serious complications, it is important to always discuss a suspected fracture with your health care provider, even if the fracture seems mild.

Nonsurgical treatment of fractures

Many fractures can be treated without surgery. Treatment for these fractures includes casts or splints that can be applied around a fractured limb after the fracture is reduced to limit movement and encourage healing. Casts are very commonly used for mild or moderately severe fractures of the extremities. Once in place, a cast is usually left on for several weeks.

Surgical treatment of fractures

Many fractures require surgery to repair. Though surgery comes with its own risks, modern orthopedic techniques can lead to improved outcomes. The surgical technique used will depend on the nature of the specific fracture. Some of these techniques include:

  • Metal plates may be screwed onto your broken bone to prevent it from moving and to promote healing
  • Metal rod may be placed inside the center of a long bone to help reattach two ends of a fracture and to maintain alignment. This technique is called intramedullary fixation.
  • Pins and rods may be placed in your bones and continue outside your skin, where they can be attached to a metal cage. This technique is known as external fixation and allows for slight adjustments to be made to the orientation and position of a bone as it heals.

What you can do to improve your fracture

Your health care provider almost always must treat a fracture. The way you treat a fracture immediately after it happens and before you can get to a hospital is important. You can improve the outcome of your fracture by following these rules:

  • Apply ice to a fracture to reduce swelling
  • Prevent any movement of a victim if a head, neck, or back fracture is suspected
  • Try to immobilize the broken bone if a person must be moved or carried to safety

What are the potential complications of fractures?

Fractures can range from mild to severe and can result in almost no complications or can result in serious complications. The cause of the fracture, the location of the fracture, and the way the fracture is treated will all affect the potential complications.

You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of fractures include:

  • Infection that can be local or can spread systemically
  • Loss of a limb
  • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
  • Paralysis resulting from a neck or back fracture
  • Permanent deformity
  • Permanent loss of sensation

References:

  1. Broken bone. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000001.htm.
  2. Bope ET, Kellerman RD (Eds.) Conn’s Current Therapy.Philadelphia: Saunders, 2013.
  3. Bucholz RW, Heckman JD, Court-Brown CH, et al. (Eds). Rockwood and Green's Fractures in Adults, 6th Ed., Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2005.
  4. Femur Shaft Fractures (Broken Thighbone. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00521.
INTRODUCTION

What are fractures?

A fracture is a broken bone. Fractures can range in severity from a crack (known as a hairline or greenstick fracture), to a complete break and separation of a bone that may protrude through your skin (known as an open or compound fracture).... Read more about fracturesintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of fractures?

Symptoms of fractures commonly include pain, swelling, bruising, and a change of shape at the surface of the skin due to the protrusion of a bone in the affected region. More rarely, a fracture can break through your skin, resulting in bone protruding from a wound.

Common symptoms of fractures

You ... Read more about fracturessymptoms

CAUSES

What causes fractures?

Your bones are some of the strongest tissues in your body. If an impact or a force is stronger than the strength of the bone on which it is acting, then a fracture may result. The most common causes of fracture are falls, motor vehicle accidents, and a weakening of the bone called osteoporosis.

What are the risk factors for fractures?

A number of factors increase the ri... Read more about fracturescauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles


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