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What is a Femoral Fracture?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A femoral fracture is a fracture of the femur or hip bone, the largest and heaviest bone in the body. In order for this bone to become broken, the patient must be subjected to considerable force, such as a severe fall or car accident. Classically, femoral fractures are fragility fractures, meaning that they occur because the bone has been weakened by underlying disease, such as osteoporosis. This type of break can be very serious, with a recovery time of at least three months.

Proximal femoral fractures occur near the head of the femur, around the hip joint, while femoral shaft fractures involve the shaft of the femur. Shaft fractures are most commonly associated with car accidents, because few other situations generate the force and angle necessary for this type of break. An unusual type of femoral fracture called a supracondylar fracture occurs just above the knee, and can cause serious problems with the knee joint in the long term.

When a fracture of the femur is suspected, a doctor will request an x-ray to determine the location and severity of the fracture. In some cases, it may be possible to treat with traction or casting, with the cast being worn for three to six months, depending on the patient's situation. In other instances, surgery is necessary to correct the femoral fracture, and it may be necessary to use plates, pins, or bone grafts to treat the femoral fracture properly.

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This type of fracture usually disables the patient severely, because it is difficult to walk on a broken femur. It may be necessary to attend physical therapy sessions during the healing phase to promote even, healthy healing of a femoral fracture and keep the leg in reasonably good physical condition. After the break has healed, it is usually recommended to receive physical therapy to condition and tone the muscles in the leg, and to learn to walk properly on the healed leg.

A number of things can influence the recovery time for a patient with a broken femur, but a doctor should be able to provide a good idea of how long the healing will take once the leg has been set and x-rayed to confirm that it was set properly. If a patient appears to be taking longer than expected to heal, it can indicate that there is a problem with the fracture and the healing process which should be addressed. For this reason, many doctors ask patients to come in for check-ups while the fracture is healing so that problems can be identified as early as possible.

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