What is a Fracture?

A fracture refers to a bone that becomes partially or fully cracked after being hit with more force than it's capable of handling. It's a common condition that typically results from simple accidents while running, bicycling, or playing sports. Though it's common, it's also a very serious medical condition that requires immediate medical attention.

The first step in treating a fractured bone is to have it x-rayed. This will allow a doctor to determine where exactly the fracture occurred. Immediately following the x-ray, a nurse will clean the wound as thoroughly as possible and then wrap the fractured bone with a temporary fiberglass cast. The patient will then be directed to the nearest professional orthopedic surgeon and is responsible for scheduling an appointment.

During the appointment, the surgeon will examine the x-ray and then recommend a treatment plan. If the fractured bone is misaligned, in that the force of the accident caused one or more of the broken bones to turn toward an unnatural angle, surgery may be recommended. In this case, the surgeon will make a large-enough incision so she can properly align the bone with surgical equipment. The surgeon may also insert rods into the broken bone pieces so that they heal better.

After surgery for a fracture, the patient will receive a more durable cast to wear for three and six weeks, depending on the severity of the fracture. During that time, it is pivotal that the patient not use the fractured bone. This applies to any and all bones. For instance, if a finger bone in the right hand is fractured, the hand must not be used for anything.

Once the fracture has healed enough, which can take up to six weeks, the surgeon will then have the cast permanently removed. The next step to recovery is to sign up for physical therapy, in which the patient will be taught how to use the affected muscle again. This step is very important because bones that aren't forced to move again can quickly become very stiff and even immovable. This especially applies to bones related to occupational work, such as hand bones, arm bones, and leg bones.

The final step is to get another x-ray for the fracture. If the surgeon believes it has healed enough, she will give the patient permission to return to normal activities. The time it takes a fracture to heal is much longer for smokers than it is for non-smokers. Activities such as running, bicycling, or playing sports should not be resumed until the fracture is completely healed.


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