A fracture is a break in the bone or cartilage. It may be because of injury or a disease that causes weakening of the bone. It may also be because of abnormal structure of bones since birth.
What are the causes?
A blow, fall or injury.
Incomplete calcification, or hardening of bones by the deposition of calcium salts, as in children.
Weakness of bones with aging.
Poor health and nutrition.
Inherited gene disease (brittle bones).
Prolonged standing, walking or running may cause fractures of the foot and ankle due to stress.
What are the symptoms?
A deformed limb or joint.
Limitation of movement.
Swelling and intense pain.
Numbness and tingling.
What are the types of fractures?
A fracture is called simple or closed when the overlying skin is not broken and the bone is not exposed. It is called compound when there is a wound that extends down to the broken bone and the bone is exposed.
When a bone weakened by disease breaks from a minor injury, it is termed a pathological fracture. An incomplete, or greenstick fracture occurs when the bone cracks and bends but does not completely break.
An impacted fracture occurs when the broken ends of the bone are jammed together by the force of the injury. A comminuted fracture is one in which the broken ends of the bone are shattered into many pieces.
If the broken bone punctures the skin, it is called an open fracture (compound fracture).
A stress fracture is a hairline crack in the bone that develops because of repeated or prolonged forces against the bone.
How are fractures treated?
It is important that a broken or dislocated bone is not moved, as it may cause damage to the bone, nearby blood vessels and nerves. An open wound should be covered by a clean cloth or sterilized bandage to prevent infection. The affected area should be kept elevated as it helps to reduce bleeding and swelling. The aim of treatment is to put back the broken pieces into position and prevent them from moving out of place till they reunite.
The specific method of treatment depends on:
the severity of the break.
whether it is open or closed.
the specific bone involved.
Types of treatment:
Cast immobilisation: A plaster or fibreglass cast is the most common type of fracture treatment. The broken bones heal successfully when they are repositioned and a cast is applied to keep the broken ends in proper position while they heal.
Functional cast or brace: The cast or brace allows limited or controlled movement of nearby joints. It is desirable for some but not all fractures.
Traction: Traction is used to align a bone by a gentle, steady pulling action. It may be used before other forms of treatment.
Open reduction and internal fixation: In this type of operative treatment, the bone fragments are first repositioned into their normal alignment and then held together with special screws or by attaching metal plates to the outer surface of the bone. A rod may be inserted through the marrow space in the centre of the bone. These methods can reposition the fracture fragments.
External fixation: Pins or screws are placed into the broken bone above and below the fracture site. The bone fragments are then repositioned. The pins or screws are connected to a metal bar or bars outside the skin. This device is a stabilizing frame that holds the bones in the proper position so they can heal. After an appropriate period of time, the external fixation device is removed.
Successful treatment depends on the patient’s cooperation. Exercises during the healing process may help to restore the normal muscle strength, joint motion and flexibility.
First aid for fractures:
Check the person's airway and breathing.
Keep the person still and calm.
Examine the person closely for other injuries.
If needed, immobilise the broken bone with the help of a splint or sling.
Apply ice packs to reduce pain and swelling.
Do not test a bone’s ability to move.
Do not move the person if a head, neck or back injury is suspected.