Grand Junction Fracture Care
What Is A Fracture?
A fracture is a medical term for a broken bone. Fractures are relatively common and it is estimated that the average person has two in a lifetime. Broken bones occur when the physical force exerted on a bone is stronger than the bone itself, which is why fractures are relatively common in older populations. Older patients have bones that have become more brittle, which makes them more likely to suffer from fractures caused by falls compared to younger individuals.Broken bones are also very common in childhood, however children’s fractures are generally less complicated than fractures in adult populations.
A Fracture Wasn’t Seen on X-Ray, Now What?
In some cases where there is a normal x-ray initially, your doctor may apply a splint to immobilize the area and order a second x-ray 10 to 14 days later.
A Fracture Was Seen on X-Ray, Now What?
Fractured bones must be set in their proper place and held there in order to heal properly. Setting a bone is also called a “reduction”. Our office only performs closed reductions. This means re-positioning the bone or bones without surgery. Most fractures in children are treated with closed reductions. Serious fractures typically require an open reduction.
This means re-positioning the bones using surgery. If such treatment is necessary our physicians will discuss various surgeons that would be able to treat you appropriately, helping you to make a decision you are comfortable with. In some cases devices like pins, plates, screws, rods or glue may be used to hold the fracture in place. Open fractures must be thoroughly cleaned to avoid infections. After reductions, most fractures are immobilized to help reduce pain and allow for healing. Medication is limited to painkillers to reduce pain. If the fracture was an open fracture antibiotics are prescribed to help prevent infection.
Rehabilitation in the form of occupational therapy and/or physical therapy begins as soon as possible. Sometimes therapy may begin even if the bone is in a cast. Such therapy promotes blood flow, healing, maintenance of muscle tone, and helps to prevent blood clots and stiffness.
Types of Fracture Treatment
Cast Immobilization- Our office uses fiberglass casts for the treatment of most fractures. Most bones can heal successfully once they have been re-positioned and a cast had been applied to hold the broken ends in the proper position while healing.
Functional Cast or Brace- This type if cast or brace allows limited or “controlled” movement of the joints nearest to the fracture. This treatment is necessary for some, but not all fractures. This type of treatment is used at the discretion of the attending physician.
Traction- Traction is usually used in order to align a bone or bones by gently and steadily pulling on the affected bones. The pulling force is transmitted to the bones through skin tapes or metal pins through the bone. Traction is sometimes used as a preliminary treatment before other forms of treatment such as casting are utilized.
Types of Fractures
There are many types of fractures, but the main categories are displaced, non-displaced, open and closed. Displaced and non-displaced fractures refer to the way the bone breaks and the alignment of the affected bones after the fracture.
In a displaced fracture the bone breaks in two or more parts and moves so that the two ends are not lined up straight. If the bone is in many pieces it is called a comminuted fracture. In a non-displaced fracture, the bone cracks either part or all of the way through but does not move and maintains its proper alignment.
A closed fracture is when the bone breaks, but there is no puncture or open wound in the skin. An open fracture is one where the bone breaks through the skin. Once the skin has been punctured it is possible for it to recede back into the wound and not be visible through the skin any longer. There is an important difference between a closed fracture and an open fracture when it comes to treatment. With an open fracture there is a greater risk for deep bone infection.
Some fracture types include:
Greenstick fracture- an incomplete fracture in which the bone is only bent. Common in children.
Transverse fracture- a fracture at a right angle to the bone’s axis.
Oblique fracture- a fracture in which the break has a curved or sloped pattern.
Comminuted fracture- a fracture in which the bone is fragmented into several pieces.
Impacted fracture- a fracture in which the ends of the bones are driven into each other. Also known as a “Buckle” fracture
Pathologic fracture- a fracture caused by a disease in which the bone has been weakened.
Stress fracture- a hairline crack in the bone often caused by repetitive stresses.
If you think that bones may be broken in the back, neck or hip, do not move the person; call for emergency medical assistance. If the person is in shock (faint, pale or breathing shallowly), call for emergency help and lay the person down.
How Do I Know If I Have a Bone Fracture??
Doctors can recognize most fractures with a thorough examination and with x-rays. Unfortunately x-rays do not always show the fracture so other tests may be necessary including: CT scans, MRIs or bone scans. Fractures that you are unable to see with an x-ray are commonly seen in the wrist, hips and stress fractures in various locations. These types of fractures are especially common in the elderly.
The severity of a fracture depends upon its location, the damage done to the bone and the damage done to the tissue near it. Serious fractures can have dangerous complications if not treated promptly. Possible complications include: damage to blood vessels or nerves, infection of the bone (osteomyelitis) or infection of surrounding tissue. Recuperation time varies depending on the age and health of the patient and the type of fracture. A minor fracture in a child may heal within a few weeks; a serious fracture in an older person may take months to heal.