Fracture (broken bone)

General or Other | Orthopaedics | Fracture (broken bone) (Disease)


A broken bone or bone fracture occurs when a force exerted against a bone is stronger than it can structurally withstand. Fractures are different from other musculoskeletal injuries such as dislocations, although there may be times when it is hard to tell them apart or when there may actually be more than one type of injury. If in doubt, it is best to treat it as if the injury is a fracture.

Common sites for bone fractures include the wrist, ankle and hip. Hip fractures occur most often in elderly people. Broken bones take around four to eight weeks to heal, depending on the age and health of the person, and the type of break.

The symptoms of a bone fracture depend on the particular bone and the severity of the injury, but may include: pain, swelling, bruising, deformity, inability to use the limb.

Causes and Risk factors

By cause there can be 2 types of fractures:

(1) Traumatic fracture - This is a fracture due to sustained trauma. e. g. fractures caused by a fall, road traffic accident, fight etc.

(2) Pathological fracture - A fracture through a bone which has been made weak by some underlying disease is called pathological fracture. e. g. a fracture through a bone weakened by metastasis. Osteoporosis is the most common cause of pathological fracture.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Once the fracture has been diagnosed, the initial treatment for most limb fractures is a splint. Padded pieces of plaster or fiberglass are placed over the injured limb and wrapped with gauze and an elastic wrap to immobilize the break. The joints above and below the injury are immobilized to prevent movement at the fracture site.

This initial splint does not go completely around the limb. After a few days, the splint is removed and replaced by a circumferential cast. Circumferential casting does not occur initially because fractures swell (edema). This swelling could cause a build up of pressure under the cast, yielding increased pain and the potential for damage to the tissues under the cast. However, if the fracture required reduction (putting the bones back into alignment) there might be a need for circumferential cast to keep the ones in place. ...