General trauma and fracture management

What is a fracture?

A fracture occurs when a bone is broken. Fractures are classified in a variety of ways, including: stable vs. unstable, open vs. closed as well as according to the fracture pattern (transverse, oblique, spiral, comminuted).

What causes a fracture?

Fractures are often caused by direct trauma, such as a hard knock or fall. Fractures can occur as a sports injury, or as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Fractures can also be caused by osteoporosis, as bones are weakened and more likely to break, or as a result of overuse (particularly in athletes).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a fracture include pain, swelling, and bruising. In some cases, the limb may appear to be deformed if a bone has moved out of place.

How can it be treated?

In the case of a fracture, your doctor will begin by performing x-rays in order to assess the injury. Depending on the type and severity of the fracture, your doctor may apply a cast or brace. In some cases, your limb may be placed into traction.

In more severe cases, it may be necessary to treat the fracture surgically, either with external fixation or open reduction and internal fixation procedures. During the external fixation procedure, screws are positioned in the bone and attached to a metal bar on the outside of the limb. The screws are placed above and below the fracture so that the bones may be held in a stable position.

In an open reduction and internal fixation procedure, the bones are placed back into a normal position and held in position with metal plates or screws in the bone.

How long does it take to recover?

Your recovery period depends on the severity and type of fracture. Your orthopaedic surgeon may recommend physical therapy after your bones have healed.