Fractures: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

A bone fracture is a medical condition where the continuity of the bone is broken – either partially or completely.

Most fractures are caused by stress or the impact of a large force. However, the weakening of bones can also occur due to diseases such as osteogenesis, imperfect osteoporosis, and some cancers. A pathological fracture is a term that refers to fractures caused by underlying medical conditions.

If you suspect that you have broken a bone, you should consult an orthopaedic surgeon Singapore as soon as possible.

Some Important Facts about Fractures

Here are some important facts about fractures:

  • The vast majority of fractures result from accidents or falls.
  • Pathological fractures are fractures caused by disease.
  • Fractures that cause injury to the overlying skin are known as compound fractures.
  • Hairline, comminuted, and avulsion are three other common types of fractures.
  • Broken bones heal naturally. Hence, treating a broken bone involves giving the bone optimal healing conditions so that it can heal itself.

What are Fractures?

It is important to understand that any bone in your body can break. Generally, people refer to a fracture as a break. However, this term is rarely used in the medical community. The term fracture can also refer to cracked bones.

A fracture can occur in many ways. For example, a bone can break but not cause damage to the surrounding tissue or tear through the skin. This is referred to as a closed fracture.

Fractures that damage the surrounding skin are known as compound fractures or open fractures. In general, they are considered to be more serious than simple fractures, as they are exposed to infections.

Fortunately, the human body is sturdy and built in such a way that it can withstand external forces and powerful impacts. However, if the force proves to be too strong or if there is an underlying disease with the bone, the bone can fracture.

As you age, less force is required to cause a fracture. In the case of children, the opposite happens since their bones tend to be more elastic. When their bones break, it usually happens at the end of their bones (areas of growing bone).

Common Types of Fractures

The most common types of fractures are:

  • Avulsion fracture: Occurs when a ligament or muscle fractures bones by pulling on them.
  • Comminuted fracture: Refers to an impact that shatters the bone into many smaller pieces.
  • Compression fracture: Usually occurs in the spongy bone in the spine.
  • Dislocation fracture: Occurs when the bone of a joint fractures after the joint has been dislocated.
  • Greenstick fracture: Refers to a fracture on one side of the bone, but the bone does not break completely because the rest of it can still bend. This is common among children whose bones are more elastic and softer.
  • Hairline fracture: Is a partial fracture of the bone but sometimes this type of fracture is harder to detect with routine x-rays.
  • Impacted fracture: Refers to one piece of bone that goes into another after it is fractured.
  • Intra-articular fracture: Refers to a fracture where the break extends into the surface of a joint.
  • Longitudinal fracture: Refers to a break along the length of a bone.
  • Oblique fracture: Refers to a fracture diagonal along the long axis of the bone.
  • Pathological fracture: Is caused by an underlying condition that has weakened the bone.
  • Spiral fracture: Refers to a fracture where at least one part of the bone has been twisted.
  • Stress fracture: Is caused by repetitive stress or strain on the bone.
  • Torus fracture: Refers one side of the bone buckling or bending without any break on the other side. It is a painful but stable condition that is common in children.
  • Transverse fracture: Refers to a straight break across a bone.

Symptoms of Bone Fractures

The symptoms of broken bones can vary greatly depending on the severity and region affected.

Symptoms and signs of these fractures depend on several different factors, including the general health and age of the patient as well as how severe the injury is.

That being said, most fractures will cause the following:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Skin discoloration
  • Angulation of the affected area
  • Inability to put weight on the injured bone
  • Immobility of the affected area
  • Hypersensitivity of the affected joint or bone
  • Bleeding from an open fracture

Symptoms of bone fractures involving larger bones such as femur or pelvis include:

  • Patient may become clammy and pale
  • Patient may feel faint or dizzy
  • Feelings of nausea and sickness

If you suspect that someone has broken a bone, you should not move this person until they can be evaluated by a healthcare professional. If possible, consider applying a splint.

A patient should only be moved if he is in a dangerous situation such as on the middle of a busy road.

Common Causes of Fractures

Automobile accidents and bad falls are two of the most common causes of fractures. Healthy bones are often very strong and hard and can therefore easily withstand strong shocks. As people get older, there is a higher risk of fractures as they have a tendency to fall more often and their bones are weaker.

Despite the fact that children’s bones are more resilient, they are more physically active than adults and hence, more prone to accidents and fractures.

Bones get weaker in people with underlying health problems and, as a consequence, they have a higher risk of fractures.

Professional sportsmen commonly suffer from stress fractures caused by repetitive stress and strain on their bodies.

How to Diagnose and Treat Fractures

In the vast majority of cases, fractures are treated by supporting the bone so that it can heal naturally.

Doctors will do tests to identify the symptoms and signs of a fracture before making a diagnosis. This may start with an interview with friends and relatives to try to identify the circumstances that caused the injury. An X-ray and, sometimes, a CT scan or MRI may be necessary.

As always, in most cases, the treatment of a fracture is focused on ensuring that the patient has the best possible function after the healing process.

Whenever possible, the bone is immobilized to ensure optimal healing conditions. In order for healing to occur correctly, the ends of the broken bone must be aligned. This is referred to as reducing the fracture. As this process can be painful, they usually put the patient to sleep under general anesthesia.