A fracture is a broken bone, the same as a crack or a break. A bone may be completely fractured or partially fractured in any number of ways.

Types of Fractures

Although bones are rigid, they do give, somewhat when an outside force is applied. If the force is too great, bones will break. The severity of a fracture depends on the force that caused the break. If the force is minor, the bone may crack rather than break all the way through. If the force is extreme, such as an automobile crash or gunshot, the bone may shatter.

If the bone breaks in such a way that bone fragments stick out through the skin, or a wound penetrates down to the broken bone, the fracture is called an open fracture. This type of fracture is particularly serious because once the skin is broken, infection in both the wound and the bone can occur. Common types of fractures include:

  • Undisplaced fracture. The broken ends of the bone line up and are barely out of place.
  • Open fracture. The skin is pierced by the bone or by a blow that breaks the skin at the time of the fracture.
  • Transverse fracture. This type of fracture has a horizontal fracture line.
  • Oblique fracture. This type of fracture has an angled pattern.
  • Comminuted fracture. In this type of fracture, the bone shatters into three or more pieces.

Fracture Treatment

Cast Immobilization

A plaster or fiberglass cast is the most common type of fracture treatment, since most broken bones can heal successfully once they have been repositioned and the cast has been applied to keep the broken ends in proper position while they heal.

External Fixation

In this type of operation, the surgeon places metal pins or screws into the broken bone above and below the fracture site. The pins or screws are connected to a metal bar outside the skin. This device is a stabilizing frame that holds the bones in the proper position while they heal.

Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF)

During this operation, the surgeon first repositions (reduces) the bone fragments into their normal alignment and holds the bones together with special screws or by attaching metal plates to the outer surface of the bone. The fragments may also be held together by inserting rods down through the center of the bone.

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