Fracture Repair and Recovery
Bones are the hardest tissues in your body. Although bones are strong, they can split or break under too much pressure or force. A broken bone is called a fracture. Fractures can occur in a variety of ways. The most common causes of fractures are injuries, prolonged stress from overuse, and bone weakening diseases, such as Osteoporosis or tumors.
Although the majority of fractures result from motor vehicle crashes and falls, some fractures occur because of diseases. Osteoporosis is a medical condition that causes more bone calcium to be absorbed than is replaced. Calcium is necessary for hard, healthy bones. Osteoporosis causes a reduction in bone density and brittle or fragile bones that are vulnerable to fractures. Type I Osteoporosis usually affects women between the ages of 51 and 75. Type I Osteoporosis is associated with spine and wrist fractures. Type II Osteoporosis usually affects people between the ages of 70 and 85. Type II Osteoporosis is associated with hip, pelvis, arm, and leg fractures.
In some cases, a snap or cracking sound may be heard when a bone fractures. You may feel sharp, deep, or intense pain along with numbness or tingling. Your skin may swell, bruise, or bleed.
The place where your fracture occurs may look odd, bent, or out of place. Sometimes a broken bone may come through the skin. You may not be able to move or put weight on your limb or joint, or you may do so with difficulty.
Your doctor can diagnose a fracture with a physical examination. Your doctor will ask you to describe your injury and your symptoms. In most cases, imaging tests are ordered to confirm the fracture.
An X-ray will be ordered to identify the type and location of your fracture. Some fractures, such as stress fractures, may not show up on an X-ray. In such cases, Computed Tomography (CT) scans or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans may be used to take a more detailed look at your bones. X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans are painless procedures.
Surgery is recommended for fractures that do not heal properly or when the bones have broken in such a way that they are unlikely to remain aligned when set with a cast. There are several options for surgery. The type of surgery that you have will depend on the location and type of your fracture. You can have general anesthesia for surgery or your doctor can numb the area with a nerve block.
Surgical options include procedures called an Open Reduction and Internal Fixation or an Open Reduction and External Fixation. Open Reduction and Internal Fixation refers to techniques that use surgical hardware to stabilize a fracture beneath the skin. Your surgeon will make an incision and place your bones in the proper position for healing. Your surgeon will secure the bones together with surgical hardware, such as rods, screws, or metal plates.
Open Reduction and External Fixation refers to techniques that use surgical hardware to stabilize a fracture from the outside of the skin. Your surgeon will make an incision and place your bones in the proper position for healing. Your surgeon will secure the bones with surgical pins that are placed through the outside of the skin. The surgical pins are attached to a metal frame on the outside of the skin.
Your pain will probably cease before your fracture has completely healed. Your doctor will limit your activity while your bone is healing. Physical or occupational therapy usually follows surgery or casting. Your therapists will work with you to regain movement, strength, and flexibility that may have decreased while your bone or joint was immobile.
Recovery time from a fracture is different for everyone. It depends on the type of fracture you had and the type of treatment you received. Your doctor will let you know what to expect. Generally, fractures need about 6 weeks to heal. Some fractures can take several months to heal. Most people have good outcomes with treatment and are able to return to their regular activities.