Bone Fractures: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

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In essence, the medical condition where the bone’s continuity is broken is called a fracture.

While a huge percentage of fractures can be attributed to stress or high force impact, other cases can be the result of a medical condition that weakens the bones (i.e. osteoporosis), osteogenesis imperfecta (also known as brittle bone disease), or some cancers.

Fractures that are attributed to a medical condition are called pathological fractures.

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What are some of the most common types of bone fractures?

  • Comminuted fracture – occurs when the bones are shattered into many pieces.
  • Greenstick fracture – occurs when the bone does not break completely and fracture occurs only on one side. This type is prevalent among children.
  • Avulsion fracture – occurs when a ligament or muscle pulls on the bone and fractures it in the process.
  • Hairline fracture – occurs when there is only partial bone fracture. This type is often difficult to detect.
  • Compression or crush fracture – this type often occurs in the spine’s spongy bone (i.e. the front portion of a vertebra may collapse secondary to osteoporosis).
  • Stress fracture – this type is typical among athletes. The fracture is likely caused by repeated strains and stress.
  • Torus or buckle fracture – this type is common among children. While painful, the bone remains stable. However, while no cracking occurs, there is bone deformity.
  • Fracture dislocation – happens when there is joint dislocation and a fracture occurs in one of the bones of the joint.

What are some of the symptoms of bone fractures?

Signs and symptoms that will manifest will depend on some key factors—the bone affected, the injury’s severity, and the overall health and age of the patient. However, some of the most prevalent indicators may include the following:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Discoloration of the skin around the area affected
  • Inability to move the affected area
  • Bleeding (in the case of open fractures)
  • Grating sensation
  • Inability to put weight on the affected area

In case of fractures affecting large bones like the femur or pelvis, some of the symptoms that might manifest can include:

  • Dizziness or fainting feeling
  • Nausea
  • Patient may look clammy and pale

What are the likely treatment options for bone fractures?

One of the key goals of fracture treatment is restoration of the best possible function of the affected area once it heals.

To trigger the natural healing process, lining up the ends of the broken bone might be required. This process is known as reducing the fracture.

The patient is often under general anesthetic during fracture reduction. The procedure may be done through closed reduction, manipulation, or surgery.

Once the bones are aligned, care is exerted to ensure it stays aligned while it heals. The following are used to achieve the objective:

  • Intra-medullary nails – internal steel rods are situated down the long bone’s center. Flexible wires are used in the case of children.
  • Plastic functional braces or plaster casts – helps hold the bone in place while it heals.
  • External fixators – may be made of carbon fiber or metal, external fixators make use of steel pins that go into the bone directly. They function like an outside the body scaffolding.
  • Screws and metal plates – contemporary procedures often utilize minimally invasive techniques.

Typically, the fractured bone is kept immobilized for at least two to eight weeks. However, the duration will depend on the affected bone and if there are complications (i.e. infection or blood supply problems).

Fortunately, given that it’s properly aligned and kept immobile within the specified time frame, the healing process is often straightforward.