Operative and Non-Operative Fracture Care

Fractures are broken bones and can occur for a variety of reasons – when enough force is applied – usually due to trauma from an accident, such as a motor vehicle accident; weakening due to osteoarthritis; or repetitive movements and overuse, often associated with athletics. Almost every bone in the body is susceptible to fracture. A bone can be either partially fractured or completely fractured and can happen lengthwise, crosswise, or a fracture can leave the bone in multiple pieces.

Common fracture types are:
  • Stable fracture – When the fracture does not disrupt the alignment of the bone
  • Open or compound fracture – When a fracture is accompanied by damage to the soft tissues leaving the bone exposed or when the fractured bone is pushed through the surface of the skin
  • Transverse fracture – When the bone has a horizontal break
  • Oblique fracture – When the fracture occurs at an angle through the bone
  • Comminuted fracture – When the bone breaks or shatters in many pieces
Signs of a fracture:
  • Swelling – localized to the area of trauma or in the general area
  • Isolated tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Deformity – if the bone is poking through the skin or if the limb, such as an arm or leg, looks out of place

Your physician will likely perform a physical examination as well as utilize x-rays of the injury to determine the exact location and severity of the fracture. Occasionally, surgery is required to repair the fracture with the use of metal screws or pins – used to stabilize the bone and promote proper healing.

Your fracture may be treated in the following ways:
  • Cast immobilization – After the bones are repositioned, a plaster or fiberglass cast will provide the necessary stabilization for proper healing
  • Functional cast or brace – Allows for minor movements of certain joints near the fracture
  • Traction – Pulling motion used to set a fracture into original position, usually done before casting or surgical repair
  • External Fixation – Surgical repair of a fracture with the use of pins connected to external plates
  • Open Reduction and Internal Fixation – Surgical repositioning of multiple pieces of bone and held together with metal pins or screws connected to internal metal bars for stability

Learn more about the different fracture types, repair, and recovery.


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