Types of Fractures – Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Types of Fractures – Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Before we look into the different types of fractures, it is imperative that we understand bone fracture definition. In simple terms, a fracture is a medical condition where there is a break in the continuity of a bone. This is why it is alternatively referred to as a bone fracture.

Most of the fractures experienced are a result of stress or high force impact. In some other cases, fractures may be as a result of certain medical conditions that weaken bones. Some of these include cancers, osteogenesisimperfecta (brittle bone disease), or osteoporosis. When the fracture is a result of another medical condition, it is called “pathological fracture.”

Quick Facts About Fractures

As we proceed to know about the different types of fractures, let’s learn a few quick facts.

  1. The major causes of fractures are accidents and falls.
  2. As mentioned above, pathological fractures are those fractures resulting from other medical conditions.
  3. Any fracture that causes injury to the skin above the location of the fracture is known as “compound fracture.”
  4. There are several types of fractures some of which include comminuted, hairline, and avulsion fractures.
  5. Medically, a bone heals itself so treatment of fractures is about providing a suitable condition for the healing process.

Overview of the Term “Fracture”

Non-professionals are likely to describe this condition as “break” so you hear them say “my bone broke.” However, professionally, “break” and “bones” are hardly used in the same sentence. Fractures are not only related to breaking as cracks are also fractures.

When you consider this then it is easy to relate with the fact that any bone in the body can experience a fracture. A bone can fracture in a couple of ways, some may damage the skin above the location and others wouldn’t. The former is known as a compound fracture while the latter, a closed fracture.

As we advance in age, the less pressure, force, or stress our bones can withstand. Fractures in children are quite different because, at this stage of human life, their bones are elastic. Again, children still have growth plates attached to the ends of each growing bone, sometimes this is damaged.

Types of Fractures

This is exactly why you are reading this post. There are different types of fractures and we have listed and briefly described them in this section.

Avulsion fracture – This occurs when a ligament or muscle exerts a force on a bone causing it to fracture.

Comminuted fracture – This is a condition in which the bone is shattered into more than two pieces.

Compression/crush fracture – This kind of fracture mainly affects spongy bone located in the spine. A major example is when a portion of the vertebra in this area collapses as a result of osteoporosis.

Fracture dislocation – This occurs when one of the joints in the body is dislocated and a bone in that joint is fractured simultaneously.

Greenstick fracture – This is a case of one side of a bone fracturing and the other remaining intact because it can bend. Greenstick fractures are more common among children because their bones are way softer and elastic.

Hairline fracture – This is another case of partial bone fracture. It can be quite difficult to detect this kind of fracture using routine x-rays.

Impacted fracture – This is a situation of one fragment of bone entering into another during a fracture.

Intraarticular fracture – This sort of fracture occurs when the break reaches to the surface of the joint located close to the fracture.

Longitudinal fracture – This sort of fracture occurs along the length of a bone.

Oblique fracture – In this case, the fracture occurs diagonally to the long axis of the bone.

Pathological fracture – In the event that a medical condition has caused the bones to be weak, this is the kind of fracture that results.

Spiral fracture – This occurs when part of the fractured bone is twisted.

Stress fracture – You will notice this kind of fracture more among athletes. The fracture is a result of consistent strains and stresses to the bones.

Torus/buckle fracture – In this case, the bone doesn’t crack but it gets deformed and it is experienced more in children. It is quite painful but also stable.

Transverse fracture – This is when the break runs straight across the bone involved.

Symptoms of Fractures

Now that you know the different types of fracture and the bone fracture definition, let’s discuss symptoms. Depending on the location of the fracture, symptoms may be quite different. Other factors affecting the signs and symptoms include the age of the patient, health condition, and severity of the injury.

The general symptoms associated with fractures include:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Angulation, which implies the bending of the location at an abnormal angle.
  • Discoloration of the skin around the location of the fracture.
  • Immobility of the affected area.
  • Inability to put or carry weight on the injured area.
  • Bleeding, in the event that the fracture is open.
  • The patient may feel a grating sensation in the joint or bone.

If the bone affected is a large one, for example, the femur or pelvis, some symptoms experienced include:

  • The patient is likely to be clammy and pale.
  • Dizziness which may result in fainting.
  • Feelings of nausea or sickness.

As much as possible, when a person is in this position, it is best not to move such an individual. You should wait for the professional help from healthcare personnel. When they arrive on the scene, it is their duty to first assess the patient’s situation.

With this assessment, they know the best line of action to take such as the application of a splint when necessary. Although, there are certain situations where you have to act quickly like when the person is in danger. For example, if the patient is lying in the middle of a busy road, you may have to move the patient to the side of the road.

Causes of Fractures

A lot of people like to know about the causes of fractures, we will explain this in this section. The most common causes of fractures are bad falls and automobile accidents. When your bones are healthy, you will be surprised at how much stress and pressure they can withstand. As we grow older, we are at more risk of fractures because our bones are weaker and there is a higher risk of falling.

Very active children are at very high risk of fractures. In the same vein, people already suffering from certain medical conditions may have weaker bones. This could be a major cause of fractures in these individuals.

Athletes and people who engage a lot in sports are at risk of stress fractures. This is because of repeated or consistent stresses and strains.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Fractures

The first step is the conducting of a physical examination by medical personnel. To do this,  briefly interview the patient’s medical history and the cause of the injury. If the patient is not able to speak at the time, loved ones, or witnesses will have to provide answers.

After this, the doctor orders an x-ray and depending on the severity, a CT or MRI scan. Even though many people do not know this, the healing process of a bone is natural and occurs automatically in most cases. The treatment of fractures is actually geared at ensuring that when the injury heals, the patient can enjoy the best functions of that body part.

Another reason for treatment is to ensure that optimal conditions for efficient and quick recovery are made available. Before the healing process can begin, it is imperative that the ends of the bones are aligned. Medically, this is called “reducing the fracture.”

To reduce the fracture while causing minimum pain to the patient, an anesthetic is administered. The process of reduction can be by closed reduction, manipulation, or surgery.

Keeping the bones aligned during the healing process is known as immobilization. There are several ways of achieving this including:

  • Plastic functional braces or plaster casts.
  • Metal screws and plates.
  • Intra-medullary nails.
  • External fixators.

Depending on how badly the bone is affected, immobilization may last up to 8 weeks. There is a possibility that it may last longer if there is an infection or some other complications.

The healing is usually straightforward once the alignment is kept immobile. During this period, bone cells (osteoclasts) absorb damaged old bone. At the same time, new bone is formed with the help of osteoblasts.

The new bone is known as “callus” and it forms on both sides of the fracture growing toward each end, filling the gap. As time passes, the excess bone smoothens out and the bone returns to normal. Depending on the age and health of the patient, the process may be rapid or slow.

Non-Unions and Delayed Unions

In some situations, the fractures do not heal, this is known as non-union. When the fractures take longer, it is known as a delayed union. When these occur, any of these measures may be taken:

  • Ultrasound therapy.
  • Bone graft.
  • Stem cell therapy.

Types of Fracture-Conclusion

In this post, you have seen bone fracture definition, the types of fractures, and the causes of fractures. If you have any questions, kindly drop them in the comments section. We will like to read from you.

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