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Bone Fracture -Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

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Bone Fracture -Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

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A bone fracture is a partial or complete break in the continuity of bone tissue, and it can occur in any bone in the body. There are different ways in which a bone can fracture, and to know more about it in detail, please read the article below.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Suman Saurabh

Published At November 10, 2021
Reviewed AtJanuary 19, 2024

Introduction:

A break in the continuity of a bone is known as a bone fracture. Bone fractures occur primarily due to a high force impact or stress. But, a fracture may also occur due to medical conditions like osteoporosis and some types of cancer as they weaken the bones. It is also called a pathological fracture. This article explains the different types of bone fractures, their causes, and the treatments available in detail.

What Are the Types of Bone Fracture?

Bone fractures are of different types, and they are classified based on many factors such as the extent of break, cause of fracture, orientation of break, etc. They are:

  • Avulsion Fracture: The muscle pulls the bone, fracturing it.

  • Comminuted Fracture: A heavy force shatters the bone into pieces.

  • Compression or Crush Fracture: Occurs generally in the spongy bone in the spine, which may occur due to collapse in osteoporosis.

  • Fracture Dislocation: When the joint dislocates, one of those joint bones fractures.

  • Greenstick Fracture: One side of the bone partly gets fractured, but it is not entirely broken because the rest of the bone can bend.

  • Hairline Fracture: It is a thin, partial bone fracture.

  • Impacted Fracture: At bone fractures, a piece of the bone gets impacted on another bone.

  • Longitudinal Fracture: When the fracture is along the length of the bone, it is called a longitudinal fracture.

  • Oblique Fracture: This fracture occurs opposite to the long axis of the bone.

  • Pathological Fracture: When an underlying condition weakens the bone, it results in a pathological fracture.

  • Spiral Fracture: One part of the bone starts to twist during a break.

  • Stress Fracture: It occurs due to repeated stress and strain, which is more common in athletes.

  • Transverse Fracture: Across the bone, when there is a straight break, transverse fracture occurs.

What Is the Cause of a Bone Fracture?

The skeletal system acts as the structure of the human body and holds the muscles and tissues together. Hence all the bones are very hard and tend to withstand powerful impacts. But if the force becomes more, or if the impact is very sudden, it might lead to a crack or breaking of the bone.

Some of the significant causes of bone fracture that are observed around the world are:

  • Physical accidents or trauma.

  • Overuse of the bone.

  • Medical conditions that affect the bones, such as osteoporosis.

Several other factors account for a bone fracture, and it differs from one person to another. Generally speaking, our bones become weaker as we grow old, and so the chance of getting affected by any medical condition that affects the bones is higher as we age. So, people above the age of 45 have an increased risk of getting bone fractures compared to younger adults.

What Are the Symptoms of Bone Fracture?

The symptoms of bone fracture vary from one person to another, and they are based on several factors such as age, location, the severity of pain, etc. Some of the common symptoms of a bone fracture include:

  • Swelling.

  • Pain.

  • Inability to move the affected part.

  • Bruising.

  • Discoloration of the skin in the affected site.

  • Not able to put weight on the area.

  • Protrusion of the bone in the affected area.

  • A rough sensation of the bone or joint in the affected area.

  • In case of an open fracture, bleeding is observed.

When the fracture is very severe, the symptoms experienced include:

  • Lightheadedness.

  • Dizziness.

  • Nausea.

  • Fainting.

How Is a Bone Fracture Diagnosed?

If the patient experiences any symptoms after an accident, the doctor will check for swelling and bruising. Suppose the person has not been involved in any accidents or trauma; in that case, the doctor will check the patient’s medical history to know about any other underlying condition that might have weakened the bones.

In most cases, an X-ray is taken on the affected part to confirm a bone fracture. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography) scan is also preferred to have a complete assessment of the fracture.

How Is a Bone Fracture Treated?

A bone fracture will heal on its own, and this healing process is natural. Treating bone fractures should mainly focus on having an appropriate circumstance that helps in the natural healing process. Care should also be taken to ensure the proper functioning of the bones in the future.

Though the healing process is natural, the doctor helps to reduce the fracture. This is done by aligning and lining the broken bones. In the case of minor fractures, the doctor will do this by external manipulation, but in the case of a severe fracture, this is done by surgery only.

Once the bones are aligned, ensure that it stays in place. This is done through different methods such as:

  • Cast.

  • Braces.

  • External fixings.

  • Metal plates and screws.

  • Intramedullary nails or rods.

The time taken for the fracture to heal can range between several weeks to months based on the severity. Certain factors affect the rate of healing, such as:

  • Person’s age.

  • High body mass index.

  • Smoking.

  • Alcohol abuse.

  • Usage of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

The rate of healing also depends on the type of fractured bone and the presence of any complications such as blood clots, infection, or nerve damage around the area.

Though the fracture gets healed, it is essential to restore the muscle strength and movement of the joints in the affected area. This is done with the help of physical therapy.

What Are the Complications of Bone Fracture?

In most cases, the bones heal well with appropriate treatment. But in rare cases, there are some possibilities of complications such as:

  • Disruption of Bone Growth - When the healing process gets disrupted, it might lead to abnormal development of the bone. This has a considerable risk of permanent bone deformity.

  • Bone Healing in the Wrong Position - The bones might get disturbed and move out of alignment during the healing process. This might lead to the healing of bones at a different site rather than the fractured site.

  • Bone or Bone Marrow Infection - In a compound fracture, there is a chance of bacterial entry through the skin. This leads to bone or bone marrow infection, which might become persistent.

  • Bone Death - If the vessels supplying blood to the bones get damaged, and the blood supply becomes very low, it might lead to bone death.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Can Bone Fracture Heal Itself?

Bone fractures heal themselves by producing new bone tissues. The new bone tissues are formed at the edge of the broken bones to join the pieces together. The bone tissues that appear newer are soft at first, so it needs to be protected. Normally a fracture should be immobilized to protect the newly arising, soft bone tissue.

2.

How Long Does Bone Fracture Take To Heal?

Most bone fractures heal within 6 to 8 weeks, but it varies based on several factors. It differs from person to person and bone to bone. It takes around 4 to 6 weeks for hand and wrist fractures, whereas a tibia fracture takes around 20 weeks or more.

3.

How to Know if the Bone Is Fractured?

When you experience the following, you may be experiencing a bone fracture.
a) The fractured bone may show the signs of pain while,
Putting weight on the injury.
Touching it.
On moving.
Pressing it.
b) The injured part looks so deformed, whereas, in severe cases, the broken bone looks to be poked out through the skin.
c) If there is a fracture, then there will be a sudden diffuse swelling within 15 minutes.

4.

Why Do Fractures Hurt More at Night?

There will be a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol during the night, which is ideal for an anti-inflammatory response. Due to less inflammation and less healing at night, the damage to bone accelerates at night, with pain and other side effects.

5.

What Happens if a Fracture Is Left Untreated?

When a fracture is left untreated, it can result in nonunion or a delayed union of the fractured bones. When severe cases are not treated, the bones will not heal and will remain broken, resulting in pain, swelling, tenderness, which continue to worsen over time.

6.

Which Bone Fracture Will Be the Most Painful?

The bones that pain the most when they get fractured are:
- Femur - Longest and strongest bone in the body.
- Tailbone - This is the bone at the bottom of the spine, and when it gets injured, it is highly painful.
- Ribs - When the chest bones get broken, they might break into minute pieces and harm the lungs, and could be terribly distressing and quite painful.
- Clavicle.

7.

Can a Fracture Heal without Surgery?

A fracture could heal without surgery, and it is a myth that fracture could be treated only via surgery. The extent of the injury and the patient's medical status will only decide whether a fracture requires surgery or not. So, not all fractures require surgery intervention; whenever possible, non-surgical treatment is also preferable.

8.

Which Treatment Is Best for Bone Fracture?

The treatment options that are highly preferred for bone fracture are,
- Splints - In order to avoid movement of the broken limb.
- Braces help to support the broken bone.
- A plaster cast supports and immobilizes the bone.
- Metal rods or plates are surgically inserted to hold the bone pieces together.
- Pain relief medications.
- Traction is a less common option to be followed.

9.

What Is the Best Food for Bone Fracture?

The best foods for bone fracture are dark-meat chicken, oily fish, dried fruits, red meat, eggs, whole green veggies, fortified cereals, and whole-grain bread. Iron is an important source that is needed to make collagen to rebuild bone and helps in getting oxygen into bones to make them heal.

10.

What Are the Stages of Fracture Healing?

There are four phases of fracture healing, where the inflammatory phase known as the hematoma formation phase occurs immediately after the injury. It is followed by fibrocartilaginous callus formation, bony callus formation, and finally, bone remodeling occurs.
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Dr. Suman Saurabh
Dr. Suman Saurabh

Orthopedician and Traumatology

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