A displaced fracture is when a bone breaks into two or more pieces and moves in such a way that the two ends are no longer lined up straight. If the bone is in many pieces, it is called a comminuted fracture. Displaced fractures are often the result of trauma and they can be very painful. Depending on where the break occurs, the sharp edges of the bones may damage nearby structures or organs. This means you should seek medical treatment immediately for such injuries.
Fractures generally occur when the bone is exposed to external pressure stronger than that which it can withstand. Displaced fractures can occur when the force is extremely powerful and sometimes in a specific direction. Some common causes are vehicular accidents, fights, falls and extreme sports or adventure. The injury may also be caused by weak bones as in the case of osteoporosis or other bone disorders. Some people also have brittle bones because of medication and slight force or simple falls can lead to fractures.
Types of Displaced Fractures
There are many types of displaced fracture. They include the rotated fracture where the bone turns around; the angulated fracture where the broken bone ends form an angle with each other; and displacement and shortening fracture where the broken part of bone gets displaced and moves towards the upper part, reducing the total length of the bone.
There is also the possibility of distraction and impaction fractures. Distraction or widening takes place when the broken parts of the bone get spaced out and the overall length of the bone is increased. If the broken parts get jammed into each other but remain normally aligned, this is known as impaction.
More than one displaced fracture can occur at a time. For example, angulation and rotation may be present in the same bone. Displaced fractures can be either open or closed. Open fractures are those in which parts of the bone cut through the skin. The skin remains intact and there is no visible wound in a closed fracture.
Symptoms of a displaced fracture
A displaced fracture is usually accompanied by pain and swelling as well as a protrusion or some form of disfigurement in the area. It is commonly presented along with a history of an injury, fall or other trauma. Depending on where the injury occurs, the patient may be unable to move the joint near the site or bear weight. It may be impossible to walk, stand or hold things. If the fracture is open, there may be a significant wound visible as the bone protrudes through the skin. As noted earlier, displaced fractures can harm organs or other internal structures. If this occurs there may be significant bleeding and severe pain. Nerves may also be damaged and this will be indicated by numbness, tingling or a burning sensation.
Treatment and Recovery
Treatment of a displaced fracture usually includes providing first aid to the wound if there is one, preserving all the parts of the bone and preventing further damage as well protecting nearby structures which could get injured. The broken bones may be realigned, and the area is often immobilized in a cast or splint.
Displaced fractures can heal within four to six months, but the time frame depends on the severity of the break and where it occurred. Proper rehabilitation with physical therapy is key to regain normal function and improving flexibility and strength.