A fracture or broken bone occurs when a force exerted against a bone is stronger than it can structurally withstand. A bone fracture is a medical condition in which a bone is cracked or broken. While many fractures are the result of high force impact or stress, bone fracture may also occur as a result of certain medical conditions that weaken the bones, such as osteoporosis or certain types of cancer. Bone healing or fracture healing is a process in which the body facilitates the repair of bone fractures.
Fractures are among the most common orthopedic (bone-related) problems. About 6.8 million fractures receive medical attention each year in the United States. The average citizen in a developed country can expect to sustain two fractures over the course of their lifetime.
Fractures of the extremities (such as arms, wrist, leg, and ankle) are the most common, and usually occur in men younger than age 45, and then become more common in women over age 45. The reason for the difference is that when women go through menopause, and stop producing estrogen, the rate of bone loss increases. Estrogen helps improve bone density. This is why women are particularly susceptible to osteoporosis (a disease causing bones to become thin and brittle) and subsequent fractures. The most common fracture prior to age 75 is a wrist fracture. In those over age 75, hip fractures become the most common broken bone.
The skeletal system serves many important functions, including providing shape and form for bodies in addition to supporting, protecting, allowing bodily movement, producing blood for the body, and storing minerals. The skeletal system is comprised of 206 bones that form a rigid framework. Soft tissues (such as ligaments and tendons) are attached to bones. Vital organs are also protected by the skeletal system. For example, the brain is protected by the surrounding skull and the heart and lungs are encased by the sternum and rib cage.
Bones form the skeleton of the body supporting it against gravity allowing a person to move and function in the world. Bone contains the bone marrow, the soft tissue found in the hollow interior of bones. Bone marrow is used in the production of blood cells, such as red and white blood cells.
Blood cells are produced by the marrow located in bones. An average of 2.6 million red blood cells is produced each second by the bone marrow to replace those damaged.
Bones also serve as a storage area for minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. When an excess is present in the blood, buildup will occur within the bones. When the supply of these minerals within the blood is low, it will be withdrawn from the bones to replenish the supply. Excess calcium may result in health conditions such as kidney stones. Excess phosphorus may deplete calcium from the bones and body.
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types of bone fractures
Greenstick fracture: In a greenstick fracture, the bone sustains a small, slender crack. This type of fracture is more common in children, due to the comparative flexibility of their bones.
Comminuted fracture: In a comminuted fracture, the bone is shattered into small pieces. This type of complicated fracture tends to heal at a slower rate.
Simple fracture: In a simple fracture, or 'closed' fracture, the broken bone has not pierced the skin.
Compound fracture: In a compound fracture, or 'open' fracture, the broken bone juts through the skin, or a wound leads to the fracture site. The risk of infection is higher with this type of fracture.
Pathological fracture: In a pathological fracture, bones weakened by various diseases (such as osteoporosis or cancer) tend to break with very little force.
Avulsion fracture: Muscles are anchored to bone by tendons, which are
a type of connective tissue.
In an avulsion fracture, powerful muscle contractions can wrench the tendon free and pull out pieces of bone. This type of fracture is more common in the knee and shoulder joints. Avulsion fractures are reported to be more common in children than adults. In adults, the ligaments and tendons tend to be injured, whereas in children the bone may fail before the ligament or tendon is injured. Children have a particularly weak point in their skeleton called the growth plate. This is the area of bone that is actively growing. In children, tendons or ligaments near a growth plate can pull hard enough to cause the growth plate to fracture.
Compression fracture: A compression fracture occurs when two bones are forced against each other. The bones of the spine, called vertebrae, are prone to this type of fracture. Elderly people, particularly those with osteoporosis, are at increased risk.
Stress fracture: A stress fracture, or hairline fracture, is an overuse injury. Because of repeated micro-trauma, the bone can fail to absorb the shock that is being put upon it and become weakened. Most often it is seen in the lower leg, the shin bone (tibia), or foot. Athletes are at risk the most, because they have repeated footfalls on hard surfaces. Tennis players, basketball players, jumpers, and gymnasts are typically at risk.
Hip fracture: A broken hip is a common injury, especially in elderly individuals. In the United States, hip fractures are the most common broken bone that requires hospitalization; about 300,000 Americans are hospitalized for a hip fracture every year. Women are two to three times as likely as men are to experience a hip fracture, because women lose bone density at a greater rate than men do. A hip fracture is a serious injury, particularly if the individual is older, and complications can be life-threatening. Fortunately, surgery to repair a hip fracture is usually very effective, although recovery often requires time and patience. Most people make a good recovery from a hip fracture. Generally, the better the individual's health and mobility before a hip fracture, the better their chances for a complete recovery.