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Fractures

DEFINITION Oxford Dictionary Definition – the cracking or breaking of a hard object or material. A bone is fractured when there is a break in the continuity of the bone cortex. Similar terms used to describe a fracture include broken, crack, greenstick or buckle; all are used to refer to the same thing – a broken bone. The break is often described by its location (i.e. bone) and its direction (horizontal, oblique, transverse). HOW IT HAPPENS Fractures can happen in a variety of ways. Most fractures are due to trauma, while others are due to pathological conditions or overuse. Trauma can vary from high-energy injuries such as motor vehicle accidents to low energy injuries such as simple falls. TYPES OF FRACTURE Open or compound fracture – the skin overlying the fracture is also broken. Comminuted fracture – the bone is broken into multiple pieces. Avulsion fracture – a muscle or ligament pulls the bone away, fracturing it. Fracture Dislocation – when a fractured bone is associated with a dislocation of a joint. Pathological fracture – a fracture through bone weakened by an underlying condition – e.g. cancer, osteoporosis. Stress fracture – a fracture due to overuse repetitive stresses and strains. INVESTIGATION AND TREATMENT The human body heals fractures by forming a blood clot that calcifies, connecting the broken pieces of bone. For a good recovery, the bones must be held in the correct position and protected while healing occurs. This may be simply by a plaster, or if the fracture is displaced, surgery may be needed to put the bone back into the correct position for adequate healing to occur. Fractures that do not heal are called non-unions. Fractures that heal in the wrong position are called mal-unions. Non-unions and mal-unions may require further surgery to be corrected (see limb reconstruction).

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