Trauma & Fracture Management
People often believe that a bone fracture is less serious than a broken bone, but they are in fact the same thing: a divide or split in the bone. Because bone is living tissue, it grows and repairs itself just like skin. But as people age, bones become weaker and less flexible, making them more susceptible to breaking, and their ability to regenerate is slower, so healing takes longer.
As with any wound, a fracture can vary greatly in severity. Slight force may cause a bone to crack instead of break; severe force can cause a bone to split or shatter, and in some cases even break through the skin. Known as an open fracture, a fracture causing a break in the skin can pose a serious threat of infection. In cases of minor fracture, a person may believe that being able to use the injured part of the body proves no serious injury has occurred, but oftentimes this is not the case. It is always important to seek rapid medical attention if there is any possibility of a fracture, as the earlier the care, the quicker and better the healing will be.
Among the first things an ER or attending physician will do is brace or splint the injured area to restrict movements that may cause further damage to the fractured bone and its surrounding nerves, tissues and blood vessels. The patient will be asked to keep the area elevated above the heart if possible to reduce bleeding and inflammation. The area will then be x-rayed to determine if there is a fracture, what type it is, and how to best reposition the bone back to its original state and secure it so that it can knit itself back together.
In patients with severe or open fractures, stabilizing apparatuses such as plates, screws or external braces are often necessary. In some cases, a trauma specialist may be necessary to provide optimal treatment, especially in situations involving complex, multiple, infected or high-impact injuries, or in those requiring bone reconstruction and/or repositioning surgery.
Physical therapy during and after healing will help restore muscle strength and flexibility.