Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Fractures

Fractures

What is a fracture?

A fracture is a partial or complete break in the bone. When a fracture occurs, it is classified as either open or closed:

Fractures have a variety of names. Below is a listing of the common types that may occur:

Illustration of greenstick fracture
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Illustration of transverse fracture
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Illustration of spiral fracture
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Illustration of oblique fracture
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Illustration of  a compression fracture
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What causes a fracture?

Fractures occur when there is more force applied to the bone than the bone can absorb. Bones are weakest when they are twisted. Breaks in bones can occur from falls, trauma, or as a result of a direct blow or kick to the body.

What are the symptoms of a fracture?

The following are the most common symptoms of a fracture. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of a broken bone may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is a fracture diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history (including asking how the injury occurred) and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for a fracture may include the following:

Treatment for a fracture

Specific treatment for a fracture will be determined by your doctor based on:

The goal of treatment is to control the pain, promote healing, prevent complications, and restore normal use of the fractured area.

An open fracture (one in which the bone exits and is visible through the skin, or a deep wound that exposes the bone through the skin) is considered an emergency. Seek immediate medical attention for this type of fracture.

Treatment may include:

Smoking and the musculoskeletal system

Smoking takes a significant toll on your musculoskeletal system. Tobacco and nicotine increase the risk of bone fractures and interfere with the healing process, according to a growing body of research. Nicotine can slow fracture healing, estrogen effectiveness, and can counter the antioxidant properties of vitamins C and E. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, research on the topic of smoking and its effect on the musculoskeletal system was reviewed. Some of the orthopaedic problems caused by smoking include:

However, quitting smoking seems to improve the healing process in most cases, except for long-term, heavy smokers who have permanent artery damage, according to the researchers. Those with permanent artery damage due to smoking may not heal easily when a peripheral part of the body is involved, since blood supply may be poor there.

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