If more pressure is put on a bone than its stability allows, it will break in one or more places. This causes severe pain and swelling, and sometimes a misalignment is visible. For such injuries, the limb must be splinted, immobilised and cooled, and a doctor must be consulted immediately.
- Pain, swelling and bruising (haematoma)
- Limited movement of the affected limb
- Misalignment or abnormal position of the bone (e.g. twisted, torsioned, shortened)
- Loss of stability and unnatural mobility
- Injury to neighbouring structures
- Blood vessels: heavy bleeding
- Nerves: sensory disturbances, paralysis
- Organs: depending on the organ, e.g. shortness of breath if a rib punctures the lung
- Circulatory collapse (due to severe blood loss following fractures of large bones such as the pelvis or femur)
- Fat embolism: when a fracture occurs, fat tissue from the bone can be released into the bloodstream and block a blood vessel, e.g. in a lung or the brain
- Risk of infection if open fracture
Causes and treatment
- Receiving a blow, falling, twisting (accident)
- Pathologic fracture: bone weakened by osteoporosis can break during normal everyday activities
- Fatigue fracture: overuse injury caused by repetitive stress in the same place (e.g. march fracture of metatarsal bones suffered by untrained military recruits)
Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital
- CT scan (computed tomography)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Immobilisation (e.g. plaster cast or splint)
- Operation (e.g. plates attached with screws to hold the broken bones together)
What can I do myself?
- Try to move the fractured area as little as possible, stabilise and immobilise the injured limb
- Don't move if injury to the spine is suspected (except to get away from a danger zone)
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When to see a doctor?
- Severe pain
- Severe swelling
- Big bruise (haematoma)
- If bones are abnormally positioned or abnormally mobile
- Injuries with open wounds, parts of the bone may be visible
Bone fracture, fractre