A fracture is a medical term for a broken bone. Bones can bend somewhat when an external force is applied but they will break if the force is too strong. A bone can be partially or completely fractured crosswise, lengthwise or in multiple pieces.
The severity of fractures varies depending on what caused the break. The most common causes of fractures are trauma, osteoporosis, and overuse. Trauma can be caused by a fall, motor vehicle accident or gunshot while osteoporosis is a disorder which weakens bones. Overuse usually comes through repetitive motions which tire muscles and place more force on bone. This can result in stress fractures which are more common in athletes. They are often found in the lower leg. Overuse will usually lead to a hairline crack rather than a break, but trauma is more likely to cause a complete break.
Types of fractures
The main types of fractures categories are displaced, non-displaced, open, and closed. A fracture is described as open if bone fragment break through the skin or a wound penetrates as far as the broken bone. A closed fracture is when there is no open wound or puncture in the skin. Open fractures present a risk of deep one infection
Displaced and non-displaced fractures indicate the alignment of the fractured bone. If a fracture is displaced, this means the bone has snapped into two or more part and the ends aren’t properly lined up. A bone which is in several pieces is called a comminuted fracture. In a non-displaced fracture, the bone cracks partially or completely but does not move and maintains its proper alignment.
There are some subtypes of fractures that only occur in children. These are the growth plate fracture in the joint which can cause shorter bone length, the buckle fracture which occurs from the compression of two bones driving into each other and the greenstick fracture in which the bone is bent but not broken.
Some subtypes can occur in both adults and children. These include the previously mentioned comminuted fracture and the transverse fracture when the fracture line is perpendicular to the shaft of the bone. Oblique fractures, when the break is at an angle through the bone and pathologic fractures which are caused by disease, can also occur at any age.
Some bones in the body are more likely to fracture than others. These include the collarbone, forearm, wrist, ankle, and hip. A fracture of the distal radius is most common in children. The break occurs near the wrist but does not involve the actual joint. Closed fractures are also more common than open breaks.
The hands and fingers are prone to fractures because they are used in many daily activities. Falling on an outstretched hand is usually the reason for the fracture. Hip fractures are most common fracture seen in people over 75. Falls, trauma, and osteoporosis are all possible causes. In the latter case, the hip may break spontaneously. Bones in the lower extremity are also at higher risk of fracture with broken toes being quite common. These can be diagnosed by history and physical examination and x-rays may not always be necessary. Leg fractures may also involve the knee or ankle joints. The clavicle or collarbone fracture is also commonly seen with the fracture of the humeral head or the ball quite common in older people.
Symptoms of a bone fracture include bruising, swelling and tenderness around the injury and deformity in which a limb may look awkward and out of place. Of course, a bone penetrating through the skin indicates an open fracture which requires immediate medical attention.