An Introduction to Bone Fractures

Orthopaedic & Spine Center
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by Mark W. McFarland, DO

The adult human body is supported by a skeleton of 206 rigid bones, some of which are large and long, like the femur in the thigh and some of which are small, like the bones of the wrist. Our bones provide the architectural framework for all of the soft tissues and organs that are held within our skin, and in conjunction with the muscles, tendons and ligaments, give us the ability to walk, run, and perform limitless motions and activities.

Did you know that bone is a living organ? It is vital for life and continually rebuilds itself in a healthy human being. It is necessary for the production of both red and white blood cells and acts as the body’s storehouse for calcium and other minerals. Bones are mostly made up of collagen, with the minerals calcium, calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate. Collagen provides strength and flexibility or “give” that keep the bones from being completely stiff. Bone can also contain marrow, cartilage, nerve fibers, blood vessels and other tissue.

Bones can be fed and kept healthy by exercise and eating a nutritious diet or they can lack both and may suffer correspondingly from disease, such as rickets or osteoporosis. In this respect, the old saying “we are what we eat” is certainly true. It is important that we eat nutritious foods, rich in calcium and Vitamin D, to keep our bones strong. Weight-bearing exercise also helps bone to stay strong and to build upon itself. It also important to get a little sun exposure every day to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D or to take a supplement to ensure that you are getting a proper dosage for bone health.

While bones are strong, they do possess a certain amount of flexibility or “give”, allowing the bone to bend when outside force is directed on the bone. However, whenever the force applied is too great, the bone will break.

Depending upon the type of force applied to the bone, the bone can fracture in different ways.
Stable Fracture – the bone ends are more or less in line
Transverse Fracture – there is a horizontal fracture line
Oblique Fracture – a diagonal or angled fracture line
Comminuted Fracture – the bone has broken into more than three pieces, may be crushed or shattered
Open or Compound Fracture – one or more bone ends has pierced the skin and may or may not protrude through the skin. Alternately, the blow causing the fracture pierces the skin to the broken bone.

In our next installment, we will talk about Fracture First Aid and how Fractures are treated, either non-surgically or surgically.