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Fractures/Broken Bones

A bone fracture is a medical condition in which a bone is cracked or broken. It is a break in the continuity of the bone. While many fractures are the result of high force impact or stress, bone fracture can also occur because of certain medical conditions that weaken the bones, such as osteoporosis.

Fractures/Broken BonesFractures/Broken Bones

Fractures: Types and Treatment

The word “Fracture” implies to broken bone. A bone may get fractured completely or partially and it is caused commonly from trauma due to fall, motor vehicle accident or sports. Thinning of the bone due to osteoporosis in the elderly can cause the bone to break easily. Overuse injuries are common cause of stress fractures in athletes. Types of fractures include:
  • Simple fractures in which the fractured pieces of bone are well aligned and stable.
  • Unstable fractures are those in which fragments of the broken bone are misaligned and displaced.
  • Open (compound) fractures are severe fractures in which the broken bones cut through the skin. This type of fracture is more prone to infection and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Greenstick fractures: This is a unique fracture in children that involves bending of one side of the bone without any break in the bone.

Fracture Healing

Our body reacts to a fracture by protecting the injured area with a blood clot and callus or fibrous tissue. Bone cells begin forming on the either side of the fracture line. These cells grow towards each other and thus close the fracture.

Medical Therapy

The objective of early fracture management is to control bleeding, prevent ischemic injury (bone death) and to remove sources of infection such as foreign bodies and dead tissues. The next step in fracture management is the reduction of the fracture and its maintenance. It is important to ensure that the involved part of the body returns to its function after fracture heals. To achieve this, maintenance of fracture reduction with immobilization technique is done by either non-operative or surgical method. Non-operative (closed) therapy comprises of casting and traction (skin and skeletal traction).
  • Casting closed reduction is done for any fracture that is displaced, shortened, or angulated. Splints and casts made up of fiberglass or plaster of Paris material are used to immobilize the limb.
  • Traction Traction method is used for the management of fractures and dislocations that cannot be treated by casting. There are two methods of traction namely, skin traction and skeletal traction.
Skin traction involves attachment of traction tapes to the skin of the limb segment below the fracture. In skeletal traction, a pin is inserted through the bone distal to the fracture. Weights will be applied to this pin, and the patient is placed in an apparatus that facilitates traction. This method is most commonly used for fractures of the thighbone.

Surgical Therapy

  • Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF) This is a surgical procedure in which the fracture site is adequately exposed and reduction of fracture is done. Internal fixation is done with devices such as Kirschner wires, plates and screws, and intramedullary nails.
  • External fixation External fixation is a procedure in which the fracture stabilization is done at a distance from the site of fracture. It helps to maintain bone length and alignment without casting.
External fixation is performed in the following conditions:
  • Open fractures with soft-tissue involvement
  • Burns and soft tissue injuries
  • Pelvic fractures
  • Comminuted and unstable fractures
  • Fractures having bony deficits
  • Limb-lengthening procedures
  • Fractures with infection or non-union

Rehabilitation

Fractures may take several weeks to months to heal completely. You should limit your activities even after the removal of cast or brace so that the bone become solid enough to bear the stress. Rehabilitation program involves exercises and gradual increase in activity levels until the process of healing is complete.

Foot & Ankle

The foot and ankle in the human body work together to provide balance, stability, movement, and Propulsion.

This complex anatomy consists of:

  • 26 bones
  • 33 joints
  • Muscles
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • Blood vessels, nerves, and soft tissue

Ankle Fractures

The ankle joint is composed of three bones: the tibia, fibula, and talus which are articulated together. The ends of the fibula and tibia (lower leg bones) form the inner and outer malleolus, which are the bony protrusions of the ankle joint that you can feel and see on either side of the ankle. The joint is protected by a fibrous membrane called a joint capsule, and filled with synovial fluid to enable smooth movement.

Ankle injuries are very common in athletes and in people performing physical work, often resulting in severe pain and impaired mobility. Pain after ankle injuries can either be from a torn ligament and is called ankle sprain or from a broken bone which is called ankle fracture. Ankle fracture is a painful condition where there is a break in one or more bones forming the ankle joint. The ankle joint is stabilized by different ligaments and other soft tissues, which may also be injured during an ankle fracture.

Causes

Ankle fractures occur from excessive rolling and twisting of the ankle, usually occurring from an accident or activities such as jumping or falling causing sudden stress to the joint.

Symptoms

With an ankle fracture, there is immediate swelling and pain around the ankle as well as impaired mobility. In some cases, blood may accumulate around the joint, a condition called hemarthrosis. In cases of severe fracture, deformity around the ankle joint is clearly visible where bone may protrude through the skin.

Types of fractures

Ankle fractures are classified according to the location and type of ankle bone involved. The different types of ankle fractures are:

  • Lateral Malleolus fracture in which the lateral malleolus, the outer part of the ankle is fractured.
  • Medial Malleolus fracture in which the medial malleolus, the inner part of the ankle, is fractured.
  • Posterior Malleolus fracture in which the posterior malleolus, the bony hump of the tibia, is fractured.
  • Bimalleolar fractures in which both lateral and medial malleolus bones are fractured.
  • Trimalleolar fractures in which all three lateral, medial, and posterior bones are fractured.
  • Syndesmotic injury, also called a high ankle sprain, is usually not a fracture, but can be treated as a fracture.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of the ankle injury starts with a physical examination, followed by X-rays and CT scan of the injured area for a detailed view. Usually it is very difficult to differentiate a broken ankle from other conditions such as a sprain, dislocation, or tendon injury without having an X-ray of the injured ankle. In some cases, pressure is applied on the ankle and then special X-rays are taken. This procedure is called a stress test. This test is employed to check the stability of the fracture to decide if surgery is necessary or not. In complex cases, where detail evaluation of the ligaments is required an MRI scan is recommended.

Treatments

In many cases, ankle fractures can be treated with a special boot or cast. However, depending on the fracture and the pattern, surgical treatment may be required. It is important to discuss this with an orthopaedic surgeon to help determine this.

Post-operative care

If you require surgery, limitations in the amount of weight you put on your leg will likely be required.  Physical therapy is often prescribed to help facilitate return to daily and athletic activity.

Foot Fracture

The foot has 26 bones, and can be divided into 3 parts:

  • The hind foot is comprised of two bones, the talus bone which connects to the bones of the lower leg, and the calcaneus bone which forms the heel.
  • The midfoot is comprised of the navicular, cuboid, and three cuneiform bones.
  • The forefoot is made up of five metatarsal bones and 14 toe bones called phalanges.

The hind foot is separated from the midfoot by the mediotarsal joint and the midfoot is separated from the forefoot by the lisfranc joint. Muscles, tendons and ligaments support the bones and joints of the feet enabling them to withstand the entire body’s weight while walking, running and jumping. Despite this, trauma and stress can cause fractures in the foot. Extreme force is required to fracture the bones in the hind foot. The most common type of foot fracture is a stress fracture, which occurs when repeated activities produce small cracks in the bones.

Types of foot fractures

Foot fractures can involve different bones and joints and are classified into several types:

  • Calcaneal fractures: This type affects the heel bone and occurs mostly because of high-energy collisions. It can cause disabling injuries and if the subtalar joint is involved it is considered a severe fracture.
  • Talar fractures: The talus bone helps to transfer weight and forces across the joint. Talus fractures usually occur at the neck or mid portion of the talus.
  • Navicular fractures: Navicular fractures are rare and include mostly stress fractures that occur with sports activities, such as running and gymnastics, because of repeated loading on the foot.
  • Lisfranc fractures: This type of fracture occurs due to excessive loading on the foot, which leads to stretching or tearing of the midfoot ligaments.

Causes

Foot fractures commonly occur because of a fall, motor vehicle accident, dropping a heavy object on your foot, or from overuse such as with sports.

Symptoms

The common symptoms of a foot fracture include pain, bruising, tenderness, swelling, deformity and inability to bear weight.

Diagnosis

Your doctor diagnoses a foot fracture by reviewing your medical history and performing a thorough physical examination of your foot. Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI or CT scan may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. Navicular fractures can be especially difficult to diagnose without imaging tests.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the type of fracture sustained. For mild fractures, nonsurgical treatment is advised and includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the foot. Your doctor may suggest a splint or cast to immobilize the foot. For more severe fractures, surgery will be required to align, reconstruct or fuse the joints. Bone fragments may be held together with plates and screws.

Physical therapy may be recommended to improve range of motion and strengthen the foot muscles. Weight bearing however should be a gradual process with the help of a cane or walking boot.

Heel Fractures

The calcaneus or heel bone is a large bone found on the rear part of the foot. The calcaneus connects with the talus and cuboid bones to form the subtalar joint of the foot. A fracture is a break in a bone from trauma or various disease conditions. The types of fracture to the calcaneus depend on the severity and include stable fractures, displaced fractures, open fractures, closed fractures and comminuted fractures.

A fracture of the calcaneus is most commonly due to a traumatic event such as falling from a height, twisting injury, motor accidents, sports injuries and ankle sprain.

Fracture of the calcaneus is considered serious and can cause longstanding problems if not treated correctly. Stiffness and pain in the joint and arthritis are commonly reported risks of a calcaneal fracture.

The commonly seen signs and symptoms of calcaneal fractures are

  • Pain in the heel
  • Swelling in the heel
  • Bruises in the heel
  • Inability to walk or bear weight on the foot

The evaluation of the calcaneal fracture is done by imaging i.e., X-ray and CT scan. Based on the severity of the fracture, the doctor recommends the plan of treatment.

Calcaneal fractures are treated based on the type of fracture and extent of soft tissue damage.

Nonsurgical treatment

  • Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E.) – is the most commonly used treatment option. Staying off (resting) the injured foot can heal the fracture. Covering the affected area with ice packs over a towel reduces swelling and pain. Compression stockings and elastic bandages can also aid in healing the pain. Positioning the feet above the level of heart reduces swelling.
  • Immobilization – Casting the injured foot prevents the fractured bone from moving. Walking with the help of crutches is advisable to avoid bearing body weight until healing has occurred.

Surgical treatment

  • Open reduction and internal fixation – This surgery involves putting the bone fragments back together with metal plates and screws to reposition them and set them to normal alignment.
  • Percutaneous screw fixation – This is the best preferred treatment in cases where the bone pieces are large. The bone can either be pushed or pulled to set into place without making a large incision. Metal screws are then inserted and fixed through small incisions to hold the bone pieces together.

Rehabilitation

Irrespective of the treatment procedure, the patient is recommended to undergo physiotherapy and practice simple exercises regularly to help restore function. This would help the muscles to gain flexibility and after complete recovery, the patient can resume their daily living with normal activities.

Lisfranc (Midfoot) Fracture

Tarsometatarsal joint refers to the region found in the middle of the foot. It is also called as Lisfranc joints. It is a junction between the tarsal bones (group of seven articulating bones in the foot) and metatarsal bones (a group of five long bones in the foot). A deformity in the tarsometatarsal region can be due to arthritis and traumatic motor accidents.

Tarsometatarsal arthritis is characterized by pain, functional impairment and midfoot instability. The appearance of bruises and swelling on the dorsal side of the midfoot are the commonly observed symptoms. The doctor will first examine the physical condition of the foot by inspection and palpation (feeling with hands). You may be advised to get an X-ray taken. You might also be sent to get a CT or MRI scan done to provide more information about your condition.

These injuries are often difficult to detect, so proper evaluation is required.

Stress Fractures of the Foot & Ankle

A stress fracture is described as a small crack in the bone which occurs from an overuse injury of a bone. It commonly develops in the weight bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. When the muscles of the foot are overworked, or stressed, they are unable to absorb the stress and when this happens the muscles transfer the stress to the bone which results in stress fracture.

Stress fractures are caused by a rapid increase in the intensity of exercise. They can also be caused by impact on a hard surface, improper footwear, and increased physical activity. Athletes participating in certain sports such as basketball, tennis or gymnastics are at a greater risk of developing stress fractures. During these sports the repetitive stress of the foot strike on a hard surface causing trauma and muscle fatigue. An athlete with inadequate rest between workouts can also develop stress fracture.

Females are at a greater risk of developing stress fracture than males, and may be related to a condition referred to as “female athlete triad”. It is a combination of eating disorders, amenorrhea (irregular menstrual cycle), and osteoporosis (thinning of the bones). The risk of developing stress fracture increases in females if the bone weight decreases.

The most common symptom is pain in the foot which usually gets worse during exercises and decreases upon resting. Swelling, bruising, and tenderness may also occur at a specific point.

Your doctor will diagnosis the condition after discussing symptoms and risk factors and examines the foot and ankle. Some of the diagnostic tests such as X-ray, MRI scan or bone scan may be required to confirm the fracture.

Treatment

Stress fractures can be treated by non-surgical approach which includes rest and limiting the physical activities that involves foot and ankle. If children return too quickly to the activity that has caused stress fracture, it may lead to chronic problems such as harder-to-heal stress fractures. Re-injury can also occur without allowing the stress fracture to completely heal.

Protective footwear may be recommended which helps to reduce stress on the foot. Your doctor may apply cast to the foot to immobilize the leg which also helps to remove the stress. Crutches may be used to prevent the weight of the foot until the stress fracture is healed completely.

Surgery may be required if the fracture is not healed completely by non-surgical treatment. Your doctor makes an incision on the foot and uses internal fixators such as wires, pins, or plates to attach the broken bones of the foot together until healing happens after which these fixators can be removed or may be permanently left inside the body.

Some of the following measures may help to prevent stress fractures:

  • Ensure to start any new sport activity slowly and progress gradually
  • Cross-training: You may use more than one exercise with the same intention to prevent injury. For example, you may run on even days and ride a bike on odd days, instead of running every day to reduce the risk of injury from overuse. This limits the stress occurring on specific muscles as different activities use muscles in different ways.
  • Ensure to maintain a healthy diet and include calcium and vitamin D-rich foods in your diet
  • Ensure that your child uses proper footwear or shoes for any sports activity and avoid using old or worn out shoes
  • If your child complains of pain and swelling, then immediately stop the activities and make sure that your child rests for few days

Talus Fractures

The talus is a small bone at the ankle joint that connects the heel bone and the two bones of the lower leg, enabling the up and down movement of the foot. Fractures in the talus bone may occur due to a fall from great heights, motor vehicle accidents or twisting of the ankle. The symptoms include severe ankle pain, inability to walk, swelling and tenderness.

When you present to the clinic with these symptoms, your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination and order an X-ray or CT-scan to diagnose the location and severity of the fracture. Talus fractures are treated by either non-surgical or surgical methods.

Non-surgical treatment: If the bone has not moved out of alignment, your doctor will place your ankle in a cast for 6 to 8 weeks. You will be advised to perform exercises to help strengthen your foot and ankle and restore range of motion once the cast is removed.

Surgical treatment: Your surgeon realigns the fractured bone and stabilizes it with metal plates and/or screws. Small bone fragments may be removed and replaced with bone graft. After surgery, you may have to wear a cast for 6 to 8 weeks until complete healing. Physical therapy exercises will be initiated to restore movement.

Toe & Forefoot Fractures

The forefoot is the front of the foot that includes the toes. Fractures occurring in this part of the foot are painful but very often not disabling. There are 2 types of fractures namely, traumatic fracture and stress fracture. Traumatic fractures occur when there is a direct impact of your foot on a hard surface. Stress fractures are tiny hair line cracks in the bone, most commonly caused due to repeated stress. The symptoms of toe and forefoot fractures include pain, bruising, swelling and inability to walk.

To detect toe and forefoot fractures, your doctor conducts a physical examination of the foot, and may order X-ray’s to identify the location and severity of the fracture. Toe and forefoot fractures can be treated by the following ways:

  • Rest: Adequate amount of rest can sometimes help heal a traumatic fracture.
  • Splinting: Splints may be applied to keep the toe in a fixed position.
  • Rigid shoe: A stiff-soled shoe may be recommended to protect the toe and position it correctly.
  • Buddy taping: The fractured toe is taped to the adjacent toe with a gauze pad between the toes.
  • Surgery: Your doctor realigns the fractured bones using pins or screws to hold the bones together in place until they heal completely.

Hip

The thigh bone, femur, and the pelvis, acetabulum, join to form the hip joint. The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint. The “ball” is the head of the femur, or thigh bone, and the “socket” is the cup shaped acetabulum.

The joint surface is covered by a smooth articular surface that allows pain free movement in the joint.

The cartilage cushions the joint and allows the bones to move on each other with smooth movements. This cartilage does not show up on X-ray, therefore you can see a “joint space” between the femoral head and acetabular socket.

Hip Fractures

The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint. The “ball” is the head of the femur or thigh bone and the “socket” is the cup shaped acetabulum. The joint surface is covered by a smooth articular surface that allows pain free movement in the joint.

Hip fracture is a break that occurs near the hip in the upper part of the femur or thigh bone. The thigh bone has two bony processes on the upper part – the greater and lesser trochanters. The lesser trochanter projects from the base of the femoral neck on the back of the thigh bone. Hip fractures can occur either due to a break in the femoral neck, in the area between the greater and lesser trochanter or below the lesser trochanter.

Hip fracture is most frequently caused after minor trauma in elderly patients with weak bones, and by a high-energy trauma or serious injuries in young people. Long term use of certain medicines, such as bisphosphonates to treat osteoporosis (a disease causing weak bones) and other bone diseases, increases the risk of hip fractures.

Signs and symptoms of hip fracture include

  • Pain in the groin or outer upper thigh
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Discomfort while rotating the hip
  • Shortening of the injured leg
  • Outward or inward turning of the foot and knee of the injured leg

Your doctor may order an X-ray to diagnose your hip fracture. Other imaging tests, such as the magnetic resonance imaging or (MRI), may also be performed to detect the fracture.

Depending on the area of the upper femur involved, hip fractures are classified as

  • Intracapsular Fracture
  • Intertrochanteric Fracture
  • Subtrochanteric Fracture

In the vast majority of cases, hip fractures are treated with surgery to facilitate patient mobility and avoid complications associated with prolonged bedrest.

Knee & Leg

Fractures of the Proximal Tibia

The tibia or shin bone is a major bone of the leg which connects the knee to the ankle. A tibial fracture is a break in the continuity of the shin bone (tibia).

Fractures of proximal tibia: A proximal tibial fracture is a break in the upper part of the shin bone or tibia. Proximal tibial fractures may or may not involve the knee joint. Fractures that enter the knee joint may cause joint imperfections, irregular joint surfaces, and improper alignment in the legs. This can lead to as joint instability, arthritis, and loss of motion. These fractures are caused by stress or trauma or in a bone already compromised by disease, such as cancer or infection. Proximal tibia fractures can result in injury to the surrounding soft tissues including skin, muscle, nerves, blood vessels, and ligaments.

The symptoms of tibia fracture include painful weight bearing movements, tenseness around the knee, limitation of movement and deformity around the knee. In some individuals, impairment of blood supply secondary to the fracture may result in a pale or cool foot. Patients may also experience numbness or feelings of ‘pins and needles’ in the foot as a result of associated nerve injury.

The diagnosis of tibial fracture is based on the medical history including history of any previous injuries, complete physical examination and imaging studies. The physician will evaluate a soft tissue around the joint to identify any signs of nerve or blood vessel injury. Multiple X-rays and other imaging studies such as CT and MRI scans may be used to identify the location and severity of the fracture.

The management of the fracture is based on the severity of the fracture, medical condition of the patient and the patient’s lifestyle.

Non-surgical treatment comprises of immobilizing the fractured site with the help of casts or braces to prevent weight bearing and to help the healing process. X-rays are taken at regular intervals to assess the healing process. Weight bearing and movement are initiated gradually, depending on the nature of the injury and the condition of the patient.

Surgical treatment is considered to maintain alignment of the fractured bone. External or internal fixators may be used to align the fractured bone segments. If the fracture does not involve the knee joint, rods and plates can be used to stabilize the fracture. For a fracture involving the knee joint, a bone graft may be required to prevent the knee joint from collapsing. An external fixator is used when the surrounding soft tissue is severely damaged, as the use of plate and screw may be harmful.

As the tibial fracture usually involves the weight bearing joint it may cause long term problems such as loss of knee motion or instability and long term arthritis. Hence a rehabilitation program is initiated along with the treatment comprising of instructions on weight bearing, knee movements, and the use of external devices such as braces.

Shinbone Fractures

The tibia or shin bone is a major bone of the leg which connects the knee to the ankle. A tibial fracture is a break in the continuity of the shin bone (tibia).

Types

  • Fractures of proximal tibia: A proximal tibial fracture is a break in the upper part of the shin bone or tibia. Proximal tibial fractures may or may not involve the knee joint. Fractures that enter the knee joint may cause joint imperfections, irregular joint surfaces, and improper alignment in the legs. This can lead to as joint instability, arthritis, and loss of motion. These fractures are caused by stress or trauma or in a bone already compromised by disease, such as cancer or infection. Proximal tibia fractures can result in injury to the surrounding soft tissues including skin, muscle, nerves, blood vessels, and ligaments.
  • Tibial shaft fractures: A tibial shaft fracture is a break that occurs along the length of the tibia or shin bone (larger bone of the lower leg) between the knee and ankle joints. These fractures can occur while playing sports such as soccer and skiing.

The symptoms of tibia fracture include painful weight bearing movements, tenseness around the knee, limitation of movement and deformity around the knee. In some individuals, impairment of blood supply secondary to the fracture may result in a pale or cool foot. Patients may also experience numbness or feelings of ‘pins and needles’ in the foot as a result of associated nerve injury.

The diagnosis of tibial fracture is based on the medical history including history of any previous injuries, complete physical examination and imaging studies. The physician will evaluate a soft tissue around the joint to identify any signs of nerve or blood vessel injury. Multiple X-rays and other imaging studies such as CT and MRI scans may be used to identify the location and severity of the fracture.

The management of the fracture is based on the severity of the fracture, medical condition of the patient and the patient’s lifestyle.

Non-surgical treatment comprises of immobilizing the fractured site with the help of casts or braces to prevent weight bearing and to help the healing process. X-rays are taken at regular intervals to assess the healing process. Weight bearing and movement are initiated gradually, depending on the nature of the injury and the condition of the patient.

Surgical treatment is considered to maintain alignment of the fractured bone. External or internal fixators may be used to align the fractured bone segments. If the fracture does not involve the knee joint, rods and plates can be used to stabilize the fracture. For a fracture involving the knee joint, a bone graft may be required to prevent the knee joint from collapsing. An external fixator is used when the surrounding soft tissue is severely damaged, as the use of plate and screw may be harmful.

As the tibial fracture usually involves the weight bearing joint it may cause long term problems such as loss of knee motion or instability and long term arthritis. Hence a rehabilitation program is initiated along with the treatment comprising of instructions on weight bearing, knee movements, and the use of external devices such as braces.

Thighbone (Femur) Fracture

Femur fractures are severe injuries that usually result from a high energy type of mechanism such as a fall from a height or a motor vehicle crash. They have also occurred during football and other contact sports. They are typically treated with surgery with a device called an intramedullary rod.

Shoulder, Arm, Elbow

Broken Arm

The forearm is made up of 2 bones namely the radius and ulna. The primary function of your forearm is rotation i.e., the ability to turn your palms up and down. The fracture of the forearm affects the ability to rotate your arm, as well as bend and straighten the wrist and elbow. The breaking of the radius or ulna in the middle of the bone requires a strong force and it is most commonly seen in adults. In most of the cases, both bones are broken during a forearm fracture.

The forearm bones can break in several ways. The bones can crack slightly or can break into many pieces. Forearm fractures are generally due to automobile accidents; direct blow on the forearm or fall on an outstretched arm during sports, climbing stairs, etc.

Symptoms

The symptoms of a forearm fracture include intense pain in the arm, bruises and swelling. Your fractured forearm may appear bent and shorter compared to your other arm. You may experience numbness or weakness in the fingers and wrist. You may be unable to rotate your arm. Rarely, a broken bone sticks out through the skin or the wound penetrates down to the broken bone.

Diagnosis

Your doctor may conduct a physical examination and record your medical history initially. Your doctor may feel your arm thoroughly to determine tenderness. You may be asked to get an X-ray done to determine displaced or broken bones.

Treatment

Usually people with forearm fractures are immediately rushed to the emergency room for treatment. Treatment of forearm fracture aims at putting back the broken bones into position and preventing them from moving out of place until they are completely healed.

Nonsurgical Treatment

In case only one bone is broken and is not out of place, your doctor might treat it with a cast or brace and provide a sling to keep your arm in position. Your doctor will closely monitor the healing of the fracture. If the fracture shifts in position, you may be advised to undergo surgery to fix the bones back together.

Surgical Treatment

When both forearm bones are broken, surgery is usually required. During surgery, the cuts from the injury will be cleaned and the bone fragments are repositioned into their normal alignment. They are held together with screws and metal plates attached to the outer surface of the bone. The incision is sutured firmly and a sling is provided to facilitate healing.

Broken Collarbone

The clavicle or the collarbone is the bone that connects your sternum or breastbone to your shoulder. Clavicle fracture, also called broken collarbone is a very common sports injury seen in people who are involved in contact sports such as football and martial arts as well as impact sports such as motor racing.

Causes

A broken collarbone normally occurs after a fall onto the shoulder or a motor vehicle accident. The most common sports associated with clavicle fractures include football, hockey, and skiing.

Symptoms

A broken collarbone most often causes pain, swelling and bruising over the collarbone. Pain increases with shoulder movement. Your shoulder may be slumped downward and forward. You may also have a bump around the area of the break. You may hear a grinding sound when you try to raise your arm.

Diagnosis

To diagnose a broken collarbone, your doctor will take a brief history, about the injury, and perform a physical examination of your shoulder. An X-ray of the clavicle is taken to identify the location of the fracture. Your doctor may also recommend a computerized tomography (CT) scan in some cases.

Conservative Treatment Options

Most broken collarbones heal without a surgery. An arm sling may support the arm and hold the bones in their normal position. You may also be given pain medications to relieve the pain. After your pain reduces your doctor may recommend gentle shoulder and elbow exercises to minimize stiffness and weakness in your shoulder. Follow up with your doctor until your fracture heals.

Surgery

Surgery may be required in case of displaced fractures. Surgery is performed to re-align the fractured ends and stabilize them during healing. Surgery often involves use of pins or plates and screws to maintain proper position of the bone during healing.

Plates and Screws fixation

During this surgical procedure, your surgeon will reposition the broken bone ends into normal position and then uses special screws or metal plates to hold the bone fragments in place. These plates and screws are usually left in the bone. If they cause any irritation, they can be removed after fracture healing is complete.

Pins

Placement of pins may also be considered to hold the fracture in position and the incision required is also smaller. They often cause irritation in the skin at the site of insertion and have to be removed once the fracture heals.

Elbow Fractures in Children

The elbow is a joint that consists of three bones – the humerus (upper arm bone), radius (forearm bone) and ulna (forearm bone). An elbow fracture most commonly occurs when your child falls on an outstretched arm. It can lead to severe pain in the elbow and numbness in the hand. Fractures are more common in children due to their physical activities as well as their bone properties. Children’s bones have an area of developing cartilage tissue called a growth plate which is present at the end of long bones that will eventually develop into solid bone as the child grows.

Your child’s doctor first evaluates your child’s arm for signs of damage to blood vessels and nerves. An X-ray examination is then ordered to confirm and determine the severity of the fracture. Treatment of elbow fractures depends on the degree of displacement and type of fracture:

  • Nonsurgical treatment: If there is little or no displacement from the normal position, nonsurgical treatment is recommended. Your child’s doctor may immobilize the arm using a cast for 3 to 5 weeks. Regular X-rays are ordered to check if the bones are properly aligned.
  • Surgical treatment: Surgery may be recommended if the fracture has caused the bones to move out of alignment. Your child’s doctor brings the bones in correct alignment and may use metal pins, screws and wires to hold the bones in place. Your child must wear a cast for a few weeks. Exercises to improve the range of motion will be instructed after a month of healing.

Forearm Fractures in Children

Introduction

The radius (bone on the thumb side) and ulna (bone on the little-finger side) are the two bones of the forearm. Forearm fractures can occur near the wrist, near the elbow or in the middle of the forearm. Apart from this, the bones in children are prone to a unique injury known as a growth plate fracture. The growth plate, which is made of cartilage (flexible tissue) is present at the ends of the bones in children and helps in the determination of length and shape of the mature bone.

The healing of fractures in children is quicker than that in adults. Thus, if a fracture is suspected in a child, it is necessary to seek immediate medical attention for proper alignment of the bones.

Types of fractures

Forearm bones may break in many ways. Fractures may be “open” where the bone protrudes through the skin, or “closed” where the broken bone does not pierce the skin. The common types of fractures in children include:

  • A stable fracture that compresses the bone on one side, forming a buckle on the opposite side of the bone, without breaking the bone (Buckle or torus fracture)
  • One side of the bone breaks and bends the bone on the other side (Greenstick fracture)
  • Displacement of the radius, and dislocation of the ulna at the wrist where both bones meet (Galeazzi fracture)
  • Fracture affecting the upper or lower portion of the bone shaft (Metaphyseal fracture)
  • Fractured ulna and dislocated head of the radius (Monteggia fracture)
  • Fracture occurring at or across the growth plate (Growth plate fracture)

Causes

Forearm fractures in children are caused due to a fall on an outstretched arm or direct hit on the forearm, which may result in breakage of one or both bones (radius and ulna).

Signs and Symptoms

A fractured forearm causes severe pain and numbness. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Inability to turn or rotate the forearm
  • Deformed forearm, wrist or elbow
  • Bruising or discoloration of the skin
  • Popping or snapping sound during the injury

Diagnosis

Forearm fractures in children can be diagnosed by analyzing X-ray images of the wrist, elbow or the forearm.

Treatment

The treatment of forearm fractures in children is based on the location, type of fracture, degree of bone displacement and its severity.

Non-surgical therapy

Your child’s doctor will advise you to apply an ice pack over a thin towel on the affected area for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times a day, to relieve pain and swelling. For severe angled fractures, in which the bones have not broken through the skin, your doctor will align the bones properly without the need for surgery (closed reduction). A splint or cast may be required for 3 to 4 weeks for a stable buckle fracture. Immobilization for 6 to 10 weeks is recommended for more serious fractures.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery may be necessary for severe fractures such as fractures of the growth plate or the joint. Other conditions, such as broken skin, bone displacement, unstable fractures, misaligned bones, and bones healing in an improper position may also require surgical repair. Your surgeon will first align the bones through an incision and use fixation devices like pins or a metal implants to hold the bones in place while the wound heals. A cast or a splint may be placed to hold the bones in place.

Fracture of the Shoulder Blade (Scapula)

The scapula (shoulder blade) is a flat, triangular bone providing attachment to the muscles of the back, neck, chest and arm. The scapula has a body, neck and spine portion.

Scapular fractures are uncommon but do occur and require a large amount of force to fracture. They are usually the result of intense trauma, such as a high speed motor vehicle accident or a fall from height onto one’s back. They can also occur from a fall on an outstretched arm if the humeral head impacts on the glenoid cavity.

Symptoms of a scapular fracture include the following:

  • Pain: Usually severe and immediate following injury to the scapula.
  • Swelling: The scapular area quickly swells following the injury.
  • Bruising: Bruising occurs soon after injury.
  • Impaired Mobility: Decreased range of motion of the joint occurs, often with inability to straighten the arm.
  • Numbness: Numbness, tingling, or coldness of the hand and forearm can occur if blood supply is impaired or nerves are injured.
  • Popping Sound: A cracking or popping sound, also referred to as crepitus, can often be heard or felt at the time of the fracture.

Scapular fractures should be evaluated by an orthopaedic surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Your surgeon will perform the following:

  • Medical History
  • Physical Examination

Diagnostic Studies may include:

  • X-rays: A form of electromagnetic radiation that is used to take pictures of bones.
  • CT scan: This test creates images from multiple X-rays and shows your physician structures not seen on regular X-ray.
  • MRI: Magnetic and radio waves are used to create a computer image of soft tissue such as nerves and ligaments.

Most scapular fractures are not significantly displaced due to the strong supporting soft tissue structures surrounding it. Therefore, a majority of scapular fractures are treated conservatively and with early motion to reduce the risk of stiffness and will usually heal without affecting shoulder movement.

Conservative treatment options include:

  • Immobilization: A sling is used for comfort and to support the shoulder to allow healing to take place. This is usually worn about 3-6 weeks depending on the type of fracture and how well you heal.
  • Prescription Medications: Pain medications will be prescribed for your comfort during the healing process.
  • Physical Therapy: Early progressive range of motion exercises is essential in restoring full shoulder function. Your physician will most likely refer you to a Physical Therapist for instruction on proper exercises and early motion of the shoulder to prevent complications.

Surgical Introduction

Fractures of the scapula involving the neck or glenoid or with severe displacement have been associated with poor outcomes when treated non-operatively. will usually require surgical intervention to realign the bones properly and restore a functional, pain free range of motion to the shoulder joint.

Scapular fracture repair surgery has historically been performed through a large, open incision. Newer, minimally invasive techniques have evolved and surgery to repair scapular fractures can now be performed through arthroscopy.

Olecranon (Elbow) Fractures

Three bones, humerus, radius and ulna make up the elbow joint. The bones are held together by ligaments thus providing stability to the joint. Muscles and tendons around the bones coordinate the movements and help in performing various activities. Elbow fractures may occur from trauma resulting from a variety of reasons, some of them being a fall on an outstretched arm, a direct blow to the elbow, or an abnormal twist to the joint beyond its functional limit.

Olecranon fractures: These are fractures occurring at bony prominence of the ulna. The fractures, if stable, are treated using an immobilizing splint followed by a regimen of motion exercises. However severe fractures require surgical repair.

Symptoms of an olecranon fracture include pain, swelling, bruising, stiffness in and around the elbow, a popping or cracking sound, and deformity of the elbow bones.

To diagnose olecranon fractures X-rays of the joint are taken. In some cases, a CT scan may be needed to get to know the details of the joint surface.

The aim of the treatment is to maximize early motion to reduce the risk of stiffness. Nonsurgical treatment options include use of a splint or a sling to immobilize the elbow during the healing process. Surgery is indicated in displaced and open fractures to realign the bones and stabilize the joint as well as to avoid deep infections. 
Strengthening exercises, scar massage, therapy with ultrasound, heat, and ice are recommended to improve the range of motion. Splints are also used to facilitate stretching of the joint.

Radial Head Fractures

The elbow is a junction between the forearm and the upper arm. The elbow joint is made up of 3 bones namely the humerus bone in the upper arm which joins with the radius and ulna bones in the forearm. The elbow joint is essential for the movement of your arms and to perform daily activities. The head of the radius bone is cup-shaped and corresponds to the spherical surface of the humerus. The injury in the head of the radius causes impairment in the function of the elbow. Radial head fractures are very common and occur in almost 20% of acute elbow injuries. Elbow dislocations are generally associated with radial head fractures. Radial head fractures are more common in women than in men and occur more frequently in the age group of 30 and 40 years.

The most common cause of a radius head fracture is breaking a fall with an outstretched arm. Radial head fractures can also occur due to a direct impact on the elbow, a twisting injury, sprain, dislocation or strain.

The symptoms of a radial head fracture include severe pain, swelling in the elbow, difficulty in moving the arm, visible deformity indicating dislocation, bruising and stiffness.

Your doctor might recommend an X-ray to confirm the fracture and assess displacement of the bone. Sometimes, your doctor might suggest a CT scan to obtain further details of the fracture, especially the joint surfaces.

The treatment of a fracture depends on the type of fracture.

  • Type 1 fractures are usually very small. The bone appears cracked, but remains fitted together. The doctor might use a splint (casting) to fix the bone and you might have to wear a sling for a few days. If the crack becomes intense or the fracture gets deep, then your doctor might suggest surgical treatment.
  • Type 2 fractures are characterized by displacement of bones and breaking of bones in large pieces and can be treated by surgery. During surgery, your doctor will correct the soft-tissue injuries and insert screws and plates to hold the displaced bone together firmly. Small pieces of bone may be removed if it prevents normal movement of the elbow.
  • Type 3 fractures are characterized by multiple broken pieces of bone. Surgery is considered the compulsory treatment to either fix or to remove the broken pieces of bone, sometimes including the radial head. An artificial radius head may be placed to improve the function of the elbow.

Shoulder Trauma

Shoulder injuries most commonly occur in athletes participating in sports such as swimming, tennis, pitching, and weightlifting. The injuries are caused due to the over usage or repetitive motion of the arms.

Shoulder injuries cause pain, stiffness, restricted movements, difficulty in performing routine activities, and popping sensation.

Some of the common shoulder injuries include sprains and strains, dislocations, tendinitis, bursitis, rotator cuff injury, fractures, and arthritis.

  • Sprains and strains: A sprain is stretching or tearing of ligaments (tissues that connect adjacent bones in a joint). It is a common injury and usually occurs when you fall or suddenly twist. A strain is stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon (tissues that connect muscle to bone). It is common in people participating in sports. Strains are usually caused by twisting or pulling of the tendons.
  • Dislocations: A shoulder dislocation is an injury that occurs when the ends of the bone is forced out of its position. It is often caused by a fall or direct blow to the joint while playing contact sport.
  • Tendinitis: It is an inflammation of a tendon, a tissue that connects muscles to bone. It occurs as a result of injury or overuse.
  • Bursitis: It is an inflammation of fluid filled sac called bursa that protects and cushions your joints. Bursitis can be caused by chronic overuse, injury, arthritis, gout, or infection.
  • Rotator cuff injury: The rotator cuff consists of tendons and muscles that hold the bones of the shoulder joint together. Rotator cuff muscles allow you to move your arm up and down. Rotator cuff injuries often cause a decreased range of motion.
  • Fractures: A fracture is a break in the bone that commonly occurs as a result of injury, such as a fall or a direct blow to the shoulder.
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of shoulder arthritis, characterized by progressive wearing away of the cartilage of the joint.

Early treatment is necessary to prevent serious shoulder injuries. The immediate mode of treatment recommended for shoulder injuries is rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE). Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce the swelling and pain.

Your doctor may recommend a series of exercises to strengthen shoulder muscles and to regain shoulder movement.

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • AANA: Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • Louisiana Orthopaedic Association
  • North Oaks Health System