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Fractured & Broken Bones

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Fractured & Broken Bones
Fractured & Broken Bones

A fracture refers to any type of crack or break in a bone, while the term broken applies to the complete breakage of a bone. There are many different types of fractures that can be caused by a variety of reasons.

Fractures are classified as either closed or open, and simple or complex. Fractures always need to be treated by a doctor, so if you suspect that you have a fracture you should get checked out right away.

Fractures can cause the following problems and complications:

- Arthritis or continuing pain after healing.
- Weakness in affected bone.
- Damage to the muscle, ligaments or tendons from sharp pieces of bone.
- Internal or external bleeding from damaged veins/arteries due to sharp pieces of bone.
In some cases the bleeding can be severe enough to lead to death if treatment is not received soon enough.
- Swelling or Compartment syndrome.
Compartment syndrome is where swelling in an appendage increases to the point that it decreases blood flow to and from the appendage distal to the injury. This causes decreased oxygen to the tissues and can cause permanent damage.
- Infection in open fractures.
- Surgical complications from correcting complex fractures.

Common signs and symptoms of a fracture can be:

- Swelling
- Bruising
- Crepitice
Crepitice is the sound & feeling that bone pieces make when they rub together.
- Angulation of a limb, or obvious deformity of area.
- Bones poking through skin.
- Extreme pain in affected area, specifically sharp or stabbing pain.
- Weakness
- Decreased range of motion in affected area.
- Difficulty breathing or pain when breathing with possible rib fractures.
- Nausea or Vomiting (from shock associated with the injury)

Treatment :

All broken bones need to be treated by a doctor to ensure that they heal properly. If you suspect that you or someone else has a broken bone in the arm or leg it should be splinted to help prevent damage from the sharp edges of the bone. Splints can be made out of anything stiff, or you can buy commercial splints at the store. You should NEVER straighten a broken limb in order to splint it. You should also NEVER push the exposed ends of bone back into the skin.

An ambulance should be called if someone is suspected of having a fracture and:

They can’t move.
They are in too much pain to move.
They can not be moved without making their injury worse.
They have neck or back pain after trauma
They have moderate to severe bleeding.
They have an open leg fracture.
They have multiple injuries.

Until you can be seen by a doctor, you can use the mnemonic P.R.I.C.E to remember what to do. You can also follow this mnemonic after you have seen your doctor to help keep the swelling down. You can also take over the counter medications such as naproxen, ibuprofen or acetaminophen

P – Protect the injury from further damage.
R – Rest
I – Ice, applied for no more than 20 minutes an hour.
C – Compression, reduces swelling. Be sure that compression bandages do not compromise blood flow.
E – Elevation, elevate affect joint above the level of the heart to reduce swelling.

DO call your doctor or go to a hospital, urgent care or walk in clinic right away.
DO put a splint on the injury to protect it if you can.
DO use ice and elevation to keep the swelling down.

DO NOT take aspirin.
DO NOT attempt to straighten a broken limb.
DO NOT push the exposed ends of bone back into the skin.
DO NOT let someone move if they have an open leg fracture.
DO NOT walk on a suspected leg fracture.

What to expect at the doctors or hospital:

They will ask you how it happened, how long ago it happened, what you have done since it happened, if you have ever fractured any bones before, how much it hurts, and how well you can move it or bear weight on it. They may move your arm or leg to assess your range of motion, and test your reflexes. They will probably take x-rays to see if there is a fracture and what type it is. If they do that you will have to hold very still while a big machine takes pictures of the affected area. They may take more than one picture. You may be given pain or anti-inflammatory medication either in pills, a shot or as an IV drip.

Some open or complex fractures may need surgery to put the bones back into the proper places. People with open fractures are almost always given antibiotics to prevent and infection from developing in the wound. Once the bone is in the proper place, or if it doesn’t need to be moved you will get a cast, or sometimes a special brace. The cast will be on for several weeks depending on the type of fracture, but generally casts are left on for 4 – 6 weeks.

Once you get your cast off, you doctor may give you a brace then for a short period of time to prevent reinjuring it. If you’ve fractured your leg in any place you will probably be given crutches to walk with until the cast comes off. You may be given a prescription for pain or anti-inflammatory medication to help with the discomfort.

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