What is a fracture?
A fracture is defined as a break in the continuity of the bone or bony cartilage. Fractures often occur due to trauma, but osteoporosis and stress (or overuse) are also causative factors. Another common term for fracture is “broken bone.”
Fractures are categorized as simple or compound. Simple fractures, also called closed fractures, occur when a bone breaks inside the body without protruding through the skin. Compound fractures are those referred to as open fractures – the bone breaks and moves out of alignment, protruding through the skin.
In addition, fractures are also classified as either complete or incomplete. For complete fractures, the crack or break goes entirely through the bone. If the break is only halfway across the bone shaft, it is classified as incomplete, or “greenstick.”
There are many other variations of fractures:
- Transverse fracture –the bone breaks straight across.
- Displaced fracture –the bone end which had been broken moves away from its proper place
- Hairline fracture – there are small cracks in the bone. This is the least severe type of fracture
- Comminuted fracture – the bone has been broken into numerous pieces. This is the most severe type of fracture.
What are the signs and symptoms of a fracture?
- Swelling and tenderness surrounding the affected site
- Serious symptoms include:
- Bone protrusion through the skin
- Loss of consciousness and confusion
- Profuse bleeding
- Loss or changes in vision.
If any of these signs and symptoms occur, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.
How common are fractures?
Very common; about 6.8 million fracture cases are treated every year in the United States. Fractures accounts for 16% of all musculoskeletal injuries. Men are more prone to fractures than women: 2.8 per 100 population and 2.0 per 100 population, respectively. However, in ages 45 and above, fracture rates in women are higher. More than 40% of fractures happen at home. There are about 3.5 million cases of fractures rushed to emergency departments each year.
Source: National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and American Academy of Orthopedics
What are the risk factors?
- Osteoporosis (weakening and thinning of the bones)
- Lack of proper nutrition, especially calcium
- Excessive tobacco or alcohol consumption
- Advanced age
- Certain genetic disorders
- Participation in certain sports
- Thyroid or endocrine disorders
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Lack of physical activity on a regular basis
- Female gender – women are more at risk after menopause (due to decreasing estrogen levels)
How can I reduce my risk?
Although fractures cannot be totally avoided, doing the following may reduce the chances of sustaining one:
- If you have osteoporosis, you need to follow your treatment plan which may
- Pursue a healthy lifestyle by balancing proper diet and good exercise
- Always wear a seatbelt
- Wear protective equipment if engaged in sports
- Fall-proof your home
How are fractures diagnosed?
Fractures are primarily diagnosed through X-rays. However, there are fractures that are not seen in X-rays such as wrist, hip and stress fractures. In these cases, a CT scan, MRI, or bone scan may be needed. Diagnosing a fracture as soon as possible should be done so that it can be treated immediately. Most fractures require emergency treatment, especially those which protrude through the skin. However, not all types are serious and life-threatening, in which case, you can go to an urgent care center would be equipped to treat your fracture.
How are fractures managed and treated?
The treatment for a fracture is through a process called reduction. It is the realignment of the fractured bone back to its original orientation and the prevention of movement when the bones are healing. Fractures are handled in various ways, depending on their severity.
There are two kinds of reduction. Closed reduction (wherein surgery is not used) and open reduction (wherein repositioning is made using surgery). Less severe fractures usually undergo closed reduction while serious fractures will require an open reduction process. In open reduction, devices such as plates, screws, rods, pins and medical glue may be used to hold the fracture in place.
After setting the bone, it should be immobilized using a cast or splint, in order to hold the bone steady during its healing process. Traction devices are sometimes used to reduce pain and promote bone healing.
Medications such as analgesics are often prescribed to alleviate the pain. If surgery is required, antibiotics are also prescribed to prevent any post-surgical infection.
What are the basic first aid principles for fractures?
Proper handling of a fracture right after it has occurred can make a big difference in decreasing pain and improving outcomes. Immediately after a fracture injury, you should:
- Apply ice or cold compress to the affected part to reduce swelling.
- If a head, neck, or back fracture is suspected, prevent any movement of the victim.
- Immobilize the fractured part by using a splint, especially if the person is to be moved or carried to safety.
- Go to your nearest urgent care center or emergency room immediately
What are possible complications?
A fracture may result in the following complications if not handled properly:
- Loss of a limb
- Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
- Permanent loss of sensation
- Permanent deformity
- Paralysis resulting from a neck or back fracture
- Local or systemic infection
- Fat embolism
Should I rush to the ER?
If you suffered an open fracture, then there is a need for you to rush to an emergency room of a hospital. However, if you have a mild to moderate closed fracture, you may opt to skip the long wait and high ER prices by visiting an urgent care center instead such as the DOCCS Urgent Care Center.
DOCCS Urgent Care Center boasts of competent and patient-friendly health professionals who will assist you accordingly on the time of your visit. Fracture-related procedures such as X-ray diagnostics, splinting and treatment of mild to moderate closed fractures are offered in the facility.
No long waits, no appointments needed, no expensive emergency room fees – only the best care for you. Need professional health service? Contact DOCCS Urgent Care Center.