Fractures: Types and Treatment

A fracture is a medical condition that occurs when a bone encounters trauma that's stronger than what a bone can structurally withstand.

High impact or stress from sports injuries, bad falls, or vehicular accidents can cause fracture or a crack in a bone. Fractures may also be caused by medical conditions that weaken the bones. Examples of these medical conditions include osteoporosis, osteogenesis or brittle bones disease, some cancers, and neurological disorders. The wrists, ankles, and hip are some of the common areas where fractures can occur. Some fractures may be more serious than others so it important to consult with a family physician and have the situation assessed immediately. The symptoms of a bone fracture include the following:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Misshapen limb or joint
  • Grating sensation on the bone or joint
  • Bleeding, in case of an open fracture
  • Bruising or discoloration around the affected area
  • Inability to move or put weight on the affected area

Types of Fracture

The severity of a bone fracture depends on the patient’s age and general health. Below are some of the common types of bone fracture.

  • Simple Fracture – Also called closed fracture, a simple fracture is a break in the bone that does not puncture the skin.
  • Compound Fracture – A compound or open fracture occurs when the skin over the bone is pierced or punctured, exposing the broken bone and deep tissue.
  • Comminuted Fracture – A comminuted fracture occurs when the bone is shattered into three or more smaller pieces. This type of fracture heals slower and often requires open surgery to restore normal bone anatomy and function.
  • Greenstick Fracture – Typically affecting children younger than 10 years of age, a greenstick fracture occurs when a bone cracks or bends instead of completely breaking. Greenstick fractures are often mistaken for bruises or sprains but severe cases may cause evident deformity, accompanied by pain and swelling.
  • Hairline Fracture – Hairline or stress fractures are caused by repeated stress and often occur in the foot or lower leg. This type of fracture is a common injury in runners, gymnasts, and dancers. However, anyone can develop hairline fracture through repetitive jumping or running.
  • Avulsion Fracture – Avulsion fracture is another type of fracture that is common in athletes, dancers, and children. It occurs when a small piece of a bone is pulled away from the rest of the bone, either by a tendon or ligament that is attached to it. Sudden movements, twisting, high-impact, and pressure often cause avulsion fractures.
  • Compression Fracture – As the name suggests, a compression fracture occurs when two bones are forced against each other by strong pressure, causing the bones to become flatter in appearance. People with osteoporosis are prone to this type of injury because the bones of their spine are weak and brittle.
  • Treatment – Treatment for a bone fracture is based on many factors, including the patient’s age, medical history and overall health. Medication is usually prescribed during fracture management and treatment to ease the pain, swelling, and prevent infection.
  • Immobilization – Immobilization is the most common type of fracture treatment. A cast, splint, sling, or brace is used to keep the fractured bone from moving and encourage it to align.
  • Fracture Reduction – Fracture reduction is an intervention which may be done through surgical or non-surgical means. Surgical or open reduction aims to realign the bone to restore its proper alignment. Fixation devices such as metal plates and screws, stainless steel pins, and stabilizing rods are then inserted into the bone cavity to hold the broken bones together and provide stability. A cast is then applied after surgery. On the other hand, non-surgical or closed reduction can be used to treat a fracture without surgery. General anesthesia is applied to manage the pain and then the physician will move or realign bone pieces so they can heal properly. Similar to an open reduction surgery, a splint or cast is applied after closed reduction to keep the bones in place.

The road to fracture recovery may take long. This is why patients who are recovering from a fracture must follow their family physician’s instructions to speed up the healing process and ensure a good outcome.