The terms “fracture” and “break” are often used to describe an injury to a bone. Because of this, there may be confusion related to the signs to look for and when to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. We feel strongly that an informed patient is the best advocate for their care. Here, we discuss these terms and what they mean for you or someone you love who has sustained an injury.
Bone Fracture or Break?
A fracture and a break are the same things. It’s that simple. Generally, our bones are incredibly durable and rigid. However, they may become weak due to factors such as age and low calcium. Susceptible bones may fracture when a force from outside the body is more than the bone can absorb. When this happens, such as during a sporting collision or auto accident, the bone may fracture crosswise or lengthwise. Sometimes, multiple points of fracture occur.
Types of Bone Fractures
There are a few descriptions of fractures, based on the type of break that has occurred. These include:
- Greenstick fracture. This is the type of fracture often seen in younger children due to the relative softness and flexibility of growing bones. A greenstick fracture bends the bone but does not completely break it.
- Transverse fracture describes a crosswise, or horizontal break across the bone.
- Oblique fracture occurs at an angle.
- Comminuted fracture describes 3 or more points of fracture on the bone.
- Compound fracture, or open fracture, is a severe injury in which bone pierces the skin upon breaking.
Fractures may also be stable or displaced. These terms relate to alignment, with a stable fracture maintaining alignment between the two or more points of injury. A displaced fracture is not aligned.
Treating Bone Fractures
Bone fractures are one of the common problems we treat in our New Jersey offices. The protocol for treating a fractured bone varies based on the type and severity of the break. Options include:
- Immobilization with a cast. After ensuring proper alignment, the doctor then forms a fiberglass or plaster cast that prevents any shifting of the bone for several weeks. In this state, new bone cells will grow to heal the fracture.
- Functional brace or cast. Minor fractures may be allowed a small amount of controlled movement.
- External fixation. A minor surgical procedure may be performed to insert stabilizing hardware such as screws into the bone. These are affixed to a metal bar outside of the skin to stabilize a badly broken bone. Once the fracture has healed, these supportive structures are removed.
- Open reduction and internal fixation is another minor surgery. In this procedure, the fractured ends of the bone may need to be slightly reduced for realignment. The bone is then fixed with hardware such as screws and plates. In this instance, the hardware may or may not be removed once the bone has healed.
Schedule a Consultation
Our team provides compassionate, prompt care to patients who have broken a bone. If you want to learn more about our procedures — schedule a consultation at our Clifton, Wayne, or Parsippany office, by calling us at (973) 942-1315.