As the supportive structure of the entire body, the skeleton is hardly one to easily give way under pressure. However, certain circumstances like accidents, overuse, and brittleness due to old age can put extra force on a bone that is stronger than the bone itself. This results in a broken bone or a crack in the bone, medically referred to as a ‘fracture’.
- Pain and inability to bear weight on the injured area
- Bone protruding from the skin (for open fractures)
- Swelling or bruising over the bone
- Loss of function in affected area
- Deformity in the affected area
When this happens, the breaks into multiple pieces and shifts away from the breakage site. The most commonly occurring displaced fractures include:
- Comminuted: The bone shatters into 3 or more parts or fragments. Small bones in the hands and feet are most susceptible to this kind of fracture, which commonly occurs due to trauma.
- Segmental: One bone is broken into two pieces, resulting in a ‘floating’ bone segment.
Unlike displaced fractures, the bone in no-displaced fractures can break fully or partially, but still remains aligned with the unbroken segment at the breakage site. A common non-displaced fracture type is:
- Greenstick: The bone fractures on one side but remains intact on the other as a result of being highly flexible. It is most common in children as their bones are softer and more elastic. Other types of child-specific fractures include Buckle (deformity when two bones are pressed against each other due to external forced) and Growth Plate Fractures (damage to the growth plate that helps bone growth in children, resulting in shorter bones).
Also known as a compound fracture, it defines a bone that pierces through the skin, hence becoming visible, after breaking. External injuries that penetrate, expose, and damage the bone are also classified as open fractures. These fractures require antibiotic treatment as greatly increase the risk of a deep bone infection.
Unlike open fractures, a closed fracture does not present the risk of infection. This is because while the bone breaks fully, it does not damage the surrounding muscles or pierce the skin, resulting in internal bleeding but no open wound.
These refer to fractures that are not caused by an external force, but as a result life-long wear and tear, or brittle, thin, and weak bones due to osteoporosis in older adults. However, they can also be easily fractured with the smallest force. Pathologic factors generally affect the wrist, spine and hip.
This type of fracture occurs when the bone breaks or cracks in a straight line when a force is applied at a right angle to the bone, and usually affects the longer arm and leg bones. Other fractures where the bone breaks or cracks at an angle include:
- Spiral: At least one part of the bone twists around the unbroken part, often due to a ‘twisting’ injury like in football.
- Oblique: a sharp, angled blow from above or below causes a diagonal break or crack to appear across the bone.
A common athletes’ injury, overuse, repetitive movements, or sudden, intense activity can put extra pressure on a particular bone. This results in a small yet painful bone crack. Stress fractures are a type of ‘micro’ or ‘hairline’ fractures, and commonly occur in the lower leg.
Overextension of muscles or a sudden pulling of the bone during an accident can displace the tendons (structures attaching bones with muscles), which pull along a piece of attached bone with them. Avulsion fractures commonly occur in the knee and shoulder joints.
Similar to buckle fractures in children, compression fractures in adults occur when an external force grinds two bones against each other, causing the bone to fully break and collapse. Compression fractures are highly prevalent in the spinal vertebrae with osteoporosis. The crushed bone may also appear wider or flatter.
Without prompt treatment, most fractures, particularly ones where bones break completely or are displaced, can infect the bone and damage surrounding blood vessels and nerves. Therefore, avoid moving or putting pressure on the fractured bone and seek immediate medical assistance.
You can also book an appointment with a top Orthopedic Specialist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3250-0444 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for skeletal emergencies.
About the Writer:
Yashfa Marrium is a freelance writer and health enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected]