Types of fractures
Bones are rigid, but they do bend or "give" somewhat when an outside force is applied. However, if the force is too great, the bones will break, just as a plastic ruler breaks when it is bent too far.
The severity of a fracture usually depends on the force that caused the break. If the bone's breaking point has been exceeded only slightly, then the bone may crack rather than break all the way through. If the force is extreme, such as in an automobile crash or a gunshot, the bone may shatter.
If the bone breaks in such a way that bone fragments stick out through the skin, or a wound penetrates down to the broken bone, the fracture is called an "open" fracture. This type of fracture is particularly serious because once the skin is broken, infection in both the wound and the bone can occur.
Common types of fractures include:
- Stable fracture. The broken ends of the bone line up and are barely out of place.
- Open, compound fracture. The skin may be pierced by the bone or by a blow that breaks the skin at the time of the fracture. The bone may or may not be visible in the wound.
- Transverse fracture. This type of fracture has a horizontal fracture line.
- Oblique fracture. This type of fracture has an angled pattern.
- Comminuted fracture. In this type of fracture, the bone shatters into three or more pieces.
What Are the Symptoms of a Broken Bone?
Signs and symptoms of a broken bone include:
- Swelling or bruising over a bone.
- Deformity of an arm or leg.
- Pain in the injured area that gets worse when the area is moved or pressure is applied.
- Loss of function in the injured area.
- In open fractures, bone protruding from the skin.
Depending on where the fracture is and how severe, treatment may include:
- Splints – to stop movement of the broken limb.
- Braces – to support the bone.
- Plaster cast – to provide support and immobilise the bone.
- Traction – a less common option.
- Surgically inserted metal rods or plates – to hold the bone pieces together.