Broken Bone (Types of Bone Fractures) (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.
In this Article
- What is a broken bone (fracture)?
- What causes a broken bone?
- What are the most common types of broken bones?
- Compression fracture
- Skull fracture
- Stress fracture
- What are the most common bones that are broken?
- Broken hand or fingers
- Broken wrist
- Broken hip
- Broken leg
- Broken toe
- Broken shoulder
- What are the signs and symptoms of a broken bone?
- When should I call a doctor if I think I have broken a bone?
- How is a broken bone diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for a broken bone?
- What about surgery for a broken bone?
- How can fractures be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for a broken bone?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What are the signs and symptoms of a broken bone?
Broken bones hurt. The lining of the bone (periosteum) is rich with nerve endings that can cause pain when inflamed; and the muscles surrounding the fracture go into spasm to prevent movement of the fracture site, and this spasm may intensify the pain.
Bones have a rich blood supply and will bleed when injured. This will cause swelling and the blood that seeps into the surrounding tissue will also cause further pain. The discoloration due to the blood can show up as dark red or purple bruise in the area of the fracture site.
Because muscles and tendons may not be damaged, the person may be able to move the injured extremity. For that reason, just because you can move the injured area, doesn't mean it's not broken.
If there is damage to a nearby artery, the injury may be cool and pale (distal to the injury), and if there is nerve damage, there may be numbness (distally).
When should I call a doctor if I think I have broken a bone?
Most broken bones require medical care but the urgency of that care depends upon the type of fracture and the circumstances.
How is a broken bone diagnosed?
- The doctor will take a history of the patient's injury, examine the injury, and look for potential other injuries that may have occurred.
- The skin surrounding the injured area is inspected to look for a laceration, scrape, or skin tear.
- The area of tenderness and swelling will be evaluated to identify the injured bone.
- The type of X-ray that is ordered depends on the specific injury.
- Sometimes plain X-rays do not identify the injury. If the doctor is still concerned, CT scan or MRI might be ordered.
Fractures in children
Fractures may be difficult to diagnose in children because bones have not completely formed. Many parts of developing bone are comprised mostly of cartilage and have yet to have calcium deposited in them. Growing bone also has growth plates that may mimic or hide fractures. On occasion, the diagnosis of a fracture is made clinically based upon physical exam, even if the X-rays do not show an injury.
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