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Home | LBO News | Fractures: What You Need To Know

Fractures: What You Need To Know

Fractures: What You Need To Know

Bones are meant to deal with the stress that our bodies endure throughout our lives. Our bones are firm but can bend with excess force is applied. It is when this force becomes too great that fractures can occur.

What Are Fractures?

Fractures are the clinical term for broken bones and there are many types of fractures with different levels of severity. An incomplete fracture is one that does not break all the way, while a complete fracture means that it has broken into two or more pieces.

Simple fractures are ones that do not pierce the skin and ones that do are known as compound fractures.

transverse-fractures
Transverse Fracture: A fracture that goes entirely across the bone at a 90-degree angle.
oblique-fractures
Oblique Fracture: A fracture that travels along the bone, usually at an angle.
communited-fractures
Communited Fracture: A fracture that causes more than two fragments.

Causes of Fractures

There are three main causes of broken bones:

Accidents/Trauma

This is the most common causes of fractures and can rarely be prevented. The biggest causes of injury that result in fractures are sports injuries, car accidents and accidental falls.  80% of injuries from slipping and tripping result in fractures.

Pathological Causes

Osteoporosis or osteopenia, among other diseases, may cause bone mass to deteriorate over several years. This can make your bones vulnerable to fractures through everyday tasks – such as walking or applying pressure on your wrists. This is particular common in older people and generally affects the hip, spine or wrist and causes 300,000 fractures in the UK. It also makes it more likely that accidents will result in fractures.

Stress Causes

Stress fractures are common in athletes and are caused when muscles cause the fractures on the bones. A fracture doesn’t happen automatically and usually occurs over a series of events. A fracture can be caused by improper training or abrupt change in regime – such as a sudden increase in intense running. Stress fractures in athletes account for 20% of all sports injuries.

Other increases to fracture risk include a poor diet with insufficient vitamin D or calcium, old age and genetic vulnerabilities.

What are the Symptoms of a Fracture?

Broken bones are extremely painful and would be incredibly hard to ignore. Alongside pain, the fracture area may become swollen, bruised and may be deformed, such as unusual lumps, texture or spaces.

It is unlikely that you would be able to apply pressure on the fracture and it is incredibly important that you see a medical professional immediately as it would be considered a medical emergency.

Treatments

It is incredibly important that you should see a medical professional as soon as you notice symptoms. Without treatment, the fragments of the bones may damage the muscles and the nerves around the fracture area, lead to infection of the bone and or longer recovery times.

Once the bone has been realigned there are many ways to treat a fracture:

Immobilisation Casts: These are fibreglass and allows the area to remain immobile to promote bone recovery. However, these are extremely cumbersome and can make writing or walking near impossible.

Functional Casts: These casts allow limited movement of the surrounding areas to the fracture. This is a good option for small fractures and has less of a daily impact compared to immobilisation casts.

Fixation: These require surgery to operate. Fixation has two option, external or internal. For external fixation, metal screws are drilled into the bone from the outside and then a metal bar is placed and attached outside of the fracture. Internal fixation, the bar is attached inside the fracture. These can be applied to either a small or large fracture but, depending on a variety of circumstances, may be a better option compared to casts as they generally have a quicker recovery time. See our consultant hand and wrist consultant Sam Gidwani discuss a percutaneous screw fixation for fractures of the scaphoid.

Preventions

Prevention is always better than a cure. However, since fractures occur most during accidents, it is hard to prevent. However, there are precautions you can take to reduced your fracture risk as much as possible:

  • When playing sports, ensure that you are wearing all the correct gear and protective equipment, such as helmets, pads etc.
  • Ensure that you don’t change your exercise regime too abruptly. Having a gradual change will reduce the risk of running a stress fracture as it’ll allow your bones time to adjust.
  • Always make sure you and your passengers wear a seatbelt when driving.
  • Get the recommended levels of vitamin D (from sunlight and foods) and calcium (700mg) per day. This is particularly important for osteoporosis/osteopenia sufferers who have low bone mass. If you are lactose intolerant, find out how about the alternative sources of calcium that aren’t dairy.
  • Reduce the risks of trips and slips as low as possible by removing any trip hazards or spillages – especially at the tops of stairs and on low-grip flooring, such as tiled bathrooms.

Consult your GP for advice or talk to one of our consultants at London Bridge Orthopaedics.

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