Medical Questions » Bones Questions » Question No. 156
Question:Could you please explain the difference between a fracture and a break in a bone?
Answer:The two terms mean the same thins:—when a bone is broken, it is also fractured, but lay people tend to use the term fracture for a more serious break. There are many different types of fracture (break) that can affect a bone. These include: — Hairline fractures are the most minor of all. The bone is only just cracked, and the bone ends have not moved apart. These fractures are often quite difficult to detect on X-ray. —Another form of minor break is the greenstick fracture that a child may sustain. Because a child' s bones are still slightly flexible, they do not snap in the same way as an adults. A fall can bend the bone, but it breaks on only one side, before returning to its correct shape and position, just like trying to break a green stick from a tree. —The next type in order of seriousness is an avulsion fracture. In this, a small piece of bone is torn from a major bone where a ligament or tendon is embedded in it. This often occurs around the ankle when it is twisted. — Normal or simple fractures of the long bones in the arm and leg can occur straight across the bone, in a spiral or obliquely. All these factors influence the healing time. The bone ends may be displaced sideways from each other, or may meet at an abnormal angle, or may even overlap. Manipulation of the bone ends under an anaesthetic is necessary in all these cases, as the bone ends must be in almost perfect alignment to allow for healing and satisfactory long-term appearance and function. — Impacted fractures occur when a bone is forcibly shortened, and one fragment of bone is pushed into the other. Minor degrees of impaction can be left alone and the fracture placed in plaster. —If a bone is broken in two places (a comminuted fracture), an operation to screw or wire the three pieces together will usually be needed. —The most serious fractures are those where one end of the broken bone protrudes through the skin (called a compound fracture). These are likely to become infected and great care must be taken in the care of the skin wound and the bone. — Flat bones such as the skull can have a depressed fracture, where part of the skull is pushed down into the brain. — A joint fracture, where the line of the break enters a joint, can cause arthritis and stiffness after even the best treatment. —A fracture and dislocation may occur simultaneously, particularly around the shoulder, and these injuries are very difficult to treat. Long-term stiffness and poor joint function are common complications. -A pathological fracture occurs when a bone that is already weakened by disease, such as a cancer deposit in a bone, breaks with only a small amount of force. These fractures are very difficult to heal. Elderly women with osteoporosis may also fracture their bones (particularly the hip) very easily.
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