A fracture most often occurs when a sudden, high force impact or stress causes a break in the bone. It may also occur as a result of overuse (especially in athletes) and with certain medical conditions that weaken the bones (such as osteoarthritis). The severity of a fracture is usually dependent upon the force that caused the break, meaning that a bone may only crack with a slight force, and may completely shatter with an extreme force. Common types of fractures include:
- Open (compound) fracture – when the broken bone pierces through the skin or the wound penetrates down to the broken bone. An open fracture requires immediate medical attention because it has a higher risk of infection.
- Closed fracture – the skin remains unbroken
- Stable fracture – when the broken ends up the bone are in alignment
- Displaced fracture – when the bone fragments do not align and may require surgery to realign the bones
- Comminuted fracture – when the bone shatters into three or more pieces and may require surgery for complete healing
- Transverse fracture – when the fracture has a horizontal fracture line
- Oblique fracture – when the fracture has an angled pattern
A dislocation occurs when a sudden, high force impact forces the bones out of position at the joint. While the most common dislocation is a shoulder dislocation, finger, wrist, and elbow joints can also dislocate. A dislocation may require manipulation by a medical provider to reposition the joints, followed by a splint, sling, and ample rehabilitation. Occasionally, a patient will require a surgical manipulation to reposition the joints.
Fractures and dislocations are common orthopedic injuries and are characterized by localized pain, tenderness, and swelling at the injury site. If precise anatomic reduction and fixation is not achieved, a mal-union may occur—causing functional disability. Fractures and dislocations can be very painful and may also involve swelling, tenderness, bruising, and deformity (due to dislocation).
The team of orthopedic specialists at AkHES is qualified to manage both orthopedic fractures and dislocations of the upper extremity. Conservative care for fractures may include splinting or casting, but surgical fixation may be required depending upon the severity of the fracture.