A fracture, also referred to as a bone fracture, FRX, FX, Fx or # is a medical condition where the continuity of the bone is broke. A significant percentage of bone fractures occur because of high force impact or stress; however, a fracture may also be the result of some medical conditions which weaken the bones, for example osteoporosis, some cancers or osteogeneris imperfecta. A fracture caused by a medical condition is known as apathological fracture.
The word break is commonly used by lay (non-professional) people. Among health care professionals, especially bone specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons,break is a much less common term when talking about bones.
A crack (not only a break) in the bone is also known as a fracture. Fractures can occur in any bone in the body. There are several different ways in which a bone can fracture; for example a clean break to the bone that does not damage surrounding tissue or tear through the skin is known as a closed fracture or a simple fracture. On the other hand, one that damages surrounding skin or tissue is known as a compound fracture or an open fracture. Compound or open fractures are generally more serious than simple fractures, with a much higher risk of infection.
Most human bones are surprisingly strong and can generally stand up to fairly strong impacts or forces. However, if that force is too powerful, or there is something wrong with the bone, it can fracture.
The older we get the less force our bones can withstand. Approximately 50% of women and about 20% of men have a fracture after they are 50 years old (Source: National Health Service, UK).
Because children’s bones are more elastic, when they do have fractures they tend to be different. Children also have growth plates at the end of their bones – areas of growing bone – which may sometimes be damaged.
To fracture means “to break”.
A fracture (fx) is “a break, especially the breaking of a bone or cartilage.”Some different types of fracture:
- Avulsion fracture - a muscle or ligament pulls on the bone, fracturing it.
- Comminuted fracture - the bone is shattered into many pieces.
- Compression (crush) fracture - generally occurs in the spongy bone in the spine. For example, the front portion of a vertebra in the spine may collapse due to osteoporosis.
- Fracture dislocation - a joint becomes dislocated, and one of the bones of the joint has a fracture.
- Greenstick fracture - the bone partly fractures on one side, but does not break completely because the rest of the bone can bend. More common among children, whose bones are softer and more elastic.
- Hairline fracture - a partial fracture of the bone. Often this type of fracture is harder to detect.
- Impacted fracture - when the bone is fractured, one fragment of bone goes into another.
- Longitudinal fracture - the break is along the length of the bone.
- Oblique fracture - A fracture that is diagonal to a bone’s long axis.
- Pathological fracture - when an underlying disease or condition has already weakened the bone, resulting in a fracture (bone fracture caused by an underlying disease/condition that weakened the bone).
- Spiral fracture - A fracture where at least one part of the bone has been twisted.
- Stress fracture - more common among athletes. A bone breaks because of repeated stresses and strains.
- Torus (buckle) fracture - bone deforms but does not crack. More common in children. It is painful but stable.
- Transverse fracture - a straight break right across a bone.
What are the signs and symptoms of a bone fracture?
A symptom is something the patient feels and reports, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor detect. For example, pain may be a symptom while a rash may be a sign. The signs and symptoms of a fracture vary according to which bone is affected, the patient’s age and general health, as well as the severity of the injury. However, they may include some of the following:
- Discolored skin around the affected area
- Angulation – the affected area may be bent at an unusual angle
- The patient is unable to put weight on the injured area
- The patient cannot move the affected area
- The affected bone or joint may have a grating sensation
- If it is an open fracture there may be bleeding