Broken Bones and Fractures
Broken bones and fractures are interchangeable terms for when the bones splits into cracks, fissures, and complete breaks. According to the Mayo Clinic, fractures are often categorized as follows:
- Open (compound fracture) – This fracture occurs when the broken bone actually pierces through the skin, requiring immediate surgical treatment to minimize the risk of infection;
- Closed fracture – This fracture stays within the skin;
- Displaced fracture – This fracture occurs when the fractured portions of bone are not completely aligned, and which may require a reduction surgery for complete healing to occur;
- Comminuted fracture – The bone is broken into several pieces, which may require surgery for complete healing.
- Greenstick fracture – These fractures occur when a bone cracks but doesn’t break all the way through — similar to what happens when you try to break a green stick of wood. These fractures are common in children.
- Buckle (torus) fracture – This fracture occurs when one side of the bone is compressed, which causes the other side to bend (buckle). This type of fracture is also common in children.
Car accidents, sports, and falls are all common causes of broken bones and fractures. The elderly may experience more frequent fractures due to weakening of the bones associated with the aging process, while children may have certain types of fractures more than others due to the immaturity of their growing bones.
Any fracture, no matter how minor, requires medical attention. If the joint is painful, swollen, misaligned, or otherwise holds evidence of a potential fracture, an x-ray or CT examination will be taken to determine whether the bone is broken. Depending on the severity of the fracture, a cast, splint, or surgery to put in pins, plates, or screws may be necessary.
According to Medicine.net, some fractures may heal in 6-8 weeks, but more severe leg fractures require several months or more to heal. Most bones are capable of healing quite well. However, larger fractures, in particular those caused by traumatic injury in which large segments of bone are missing, healing can be difficult to impossible. Your doctor may recommend surgical intervention, but also more conservative treatments such as Vitamin D supplements and physical therapy.
Statistics on Broken Bones and Fractures
According to an Ohio State University study, as many as 6.8 million broken bones/fractures are treated each year in the U.S. The “average” citizen in any developed country can expect at least two fractures during his or her lifetime. Prior to age 75, wrist fractures are the most common fracture in the U.S. For those over the age of 75, hip fractures are the most common.
What are the Most Common Causes of Broken Bones/Fractures?
Certain types of accidents are more likely to cause fractures:
Car Accidents can result in significant force being exerted on a bone. Car crashes are responsible for a high number of fractures due to:
- Ejection from the vehicle that results in collision with pavement or a fixed object
- The force of being hit by an airbag
- Slamming forward into seat belt restraints
- Hitting the dashboard with force
- Being forcefully thrown forward, backward, or side to side during the accident
Car accidents are most likely to cause fractures of the femur, ribs, tibia, pelvis, wrists, face, clavicle, skull, back, and vertebrae.
- Truck Accidents, like car accidents, can cause the body to forcefully collide with pavement, a hard surface inside the vehicle, or a fixed object outside the vehicle. Due to the size difference between a truck and passenger vehicle, fractures are likely to be severe.
- Motorcycle Accidents are most likely to cause fractures from the motorcyclist hitting the pavement or other fixed object. Motorcyclists have little to no protection when an accident occurs, so serious injuries are probable.
- Workers’ Compensation should cover on-the-job injuries resulting in broken bones/fractures. Occasionally, slip and fall in the workplace could result in a fracture, particularly of the wrist when attempting to break the fall. More often, fractures occur in highly skilled labor occupations including but not limited to certain types of construction, carpentry, fire fighting, police work, and more.
- Nursing Home Neglect, particularly when that neglect leads to falls, can result in fractures. Among the elderly, broken hips and wrists are very common. Fractures are particularly dangerous to the elderly. According to Harvard Health, falls can lead to pneumonia, brain injuries, and muscle decline.
Can There Be Complications from Fractures?
Usually, fractures are not life threatening. Human bones are grown to protect the human body, and prevent major internal injury to a person’s various soft tissues. However, due to the rich blood supply in bones, a broken bone can rarely cause the loss of a large amount of blood. Alternatively, the misalignment of a bone can prevent certain amounts of blood to reach an extremity, blocking oxygen supply to the limb. When a rib breaks, the surrounding chest organs can be punctured by the broken rib. The brain can be damaged by a skull fracture, and any bone break can result in damage to surrounding tissues.
One of the primary concerns of open fractures is the risk of infection, due to exposing the bone to the bacteria outside of the body. The skin prevents external bacteria from entering the human body, so when the bone punctures the same, bacteria are introduced to the internal system quite rapidly. Antibiotics are often administered to ward off infection.
What Are the Treatments for Broken Bones/Fractures?
Fractures are usually diagnosed through x-rays and CT scans. While broken bones often heal on their own, the goal of treatment is to ensure the bone pieces are properly aligned. Complicated fractures may require surgical intervention. If the surgery requires hardware placement, a second surgery sometimes becomes necessary to remove the same several months to years later.
Fractures are also sometimes treated with:
- Splints to prevent movement of the broken bone
- Brace support for the broken bones
- Immobilization through a plaster cast
What Should I Do if I’m Suffering from Broken Bones After an Accident?
Following any accident, you should seek medical attention for any injury. This includes medical evaluation to rule out broken bones and fractures. You may believe you have a sprained ankle or wrist, only to find the bone is broken. If you wait to receive medical attention, the bone can begin mending in the wrong way. You could also worsen the fracture by continuing to use the limb before it has healed. Should this occur, a doctor might have to re-break the bone, align the break correctly, and set it.
Your future health can depend on seeking medical treatment quickly following an accident. Also importantly, swift medical treatment can provide early relief for symptoms and avoid ongoing pain and suffering that accompanies an undiagnosed medical condition.
How Can Noll Law Office Help Me?
The Noll Law Office is located in Springfield, Illinois, and is ready to help you following your accident with injuries. We are committed to helping our community members and neighbors achieve positive outcomes and get the compensation they deserve after an accident. To that end, the Noll Law Office represents clients with their best interests in mind. If you have any questions regarding an injury, feel free to contact Noll Law Office today for a free initial consultation.