Bone Fractures

If more pressure is put on a bone than it can stand, it will split or break. A break of any size is called a fracture. If the broken bone punctures the skin, it is called an open fracture (compound fracture).

A stress fracture is a hairline crack in the bone that develops because of repeated or prolonged forces against the bone.

  • Oblique – a fracture which goes at an angle to the axis
  • Comminuted – a fracture of many relatively small fragments
  • Spiral – a fracture which runs around the axis of the bone
  • Compound – a fracture (also called open) which breaks the skin

Repairing Bone Fractures

The three main treatment options for bone fractures are:

  • Casting – A "shell" made from plaster or fiberglass that keeps a limb in place while the bones heal.
  • Open reduction, and internal fixation – Uses metal rods, screws, or plates to repair the bone and keep it in place. This surgery is recommended for complex fractures that can't be repaired with casting, or if long-term use of a cast is not preferred.
  • Open reduction, and external fixation – Uses an external fixation device on the limb with the fracture to hold the bone in place to heal properly. This technique is generally applied to complex fractures that cannot be repaired using open reduction, and internal fixation.

Surgical Repairs

Surgical repair is recommended for complicated fractures that cannot be realigned (reduced) by nonsurgical methods. This is especially true of fractures that involve joints. Poorly aligned joint surfaces may contribute to the development of arthritis.

The length of the hospital stay depends on the:

  • Condition of the blood and nerve supply
  • Condition of the bone
  • Presence of an infection
  • Presence of other injuries

Most fractures heal in 6-12 weeks. Children's bones heal rapidly, usually in 6 weeks.