Fracture refers to a condition where there is a complete or partial disruption in the continuity of the bone. Healthy bone is tough and resilient and can absorb powerful impacts. However, any abnormality of the bone or an external force beyond the stress level of the bone may result in a fracture. It is the one of the most common orthopedic conditions affecting individuals of all age groups.
Classification of fracture
Fractures can be broadly classified into the following categories:
Open fracture: The fractured bone is exposed to the environment, through a deep wound in the skin.
Closed fracture: Although the bone is fractured, the skin remains intact.
Types of fracture
Depending on the nature of fracture, it can be classified into the following categories:
- Greenstick fracture- It is an incomplete fracture of the bone without a separation of the bone. It is common in children, as their bones are softer and more elastic.
- Transverse fracture- It is a complete break across the bone.
- Oblique fracture-It is a fracture that is diagonal to the long axis of the bone.
- Spiral fracture- It is a fracture that spirals around the bone and is common in twisting injuries.
- Compression fracture- This is more common in the bones of the spine where the bone is crushed or collapses.
- Comminuted fracture- In this type of fracture the bone is fragmented into several small pieces.
- Impacted fracture-In this type of fracture one of the fragments of fractured bone is driven into the other.
- Pathologic fracture- These refer to fractures due to weakened bone secondary to an underlying disease.
Causes of fracture
Application of force beyond the tensile strength of the bone causes a fracture. Most fractures are a result of a fall, trauma or a direct blow to the bone. Other factors such as aging or an underlying illness may also cause fractures due to weakened bone.
Symptoms of fracture
The most common symptom of a fracture is pain and swelling at the fracture site along with warmth and tenderness. The fracture may also result in a physical deformity and difficulty in movement.
Diagnosis of fracture
The diagnosis of fracture includes a medical history along with a physical examination of the site of fracture, by a physician, to determine the nature of the fracture. Diagnostic imaging studies such as X-ray help identify and locate the fracture.
Treatment of fracture
The objective of early fracture management is to control bleeding, prevent ischemic injury (bone death) and to remove sources of infection such as foreign bodies and dead tissue. The next step in fracture management is the reduction of the fracture and its maintenance. It is important to ensure that the involved part of the body returns to its function after the fracture heals. To achieve this, maintenance of fracture reduction with immobilization technique is done by either non-operative or surgical methods.
Non-operative (closed) therapy comprises of casting and traction (skin and skeletal traction).
Closed reduction is done for any fracture that is displaced, shortened, or angulated. Splints and casts made up of fiberglass or plaster of Paris material are used to immobilize the limb.
Traction method is used for the management of fractures and dislocations that cannot be treated by casting. There are two methods of traction namely, skin traction and skeletal traction.
Skin traction involves attachment of traction tapes to the skin of the limb segment below the fracture. In skeletal traction, a pin is inserted through the bone distal to the fracture. Weights will be applied to this pin, and the patient is placed in an apparatus that facilitates traction. This method is most commonly used for fractures of the thighbone.
- Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF)
This is a surgical procedure in which the fracture site is adequately exposed and reduction of the fracture is done. Internal fixation is performed with devices such as Kirschner wires, plates and screws, and intramedullary nails.
- External fixation
External fixation is a procedure in which the fracture stabilization is done at a distance from the site of fracture. It helps to maintain bone length and alignment without casting.
External fixation is performed in the following conditions:
- Open fractures with soft-tissue involvement
- Burns and soft tissue injuries
- Pelvic fractures
- Comminuted and unstable fractures
- Fractures having bony deficits
- Limb-lengthening procedures
- Fractures with infection or nonunion
Fractures may take several weeks to months to heal completely. You should limit your activities even after the removal of a cast or brace so that the bone become solid enough to bear the stress. Rehabilitation program involves exercises and gradual increase in activity levels until the process of healing is complete.