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Is it a fracture or is it broken?

Despite what you may have heard, a broken bone is not worse than a fracture, they both mean the same thing. In fact, the word fracture, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is defined as "the act of being broken." 

Bones: What Kind Of Break?

Doctors talk about broken bones, also called fractures, with a few basic terms:

  • Open or closed? Closed, or simple, fractures don’t break through the skin. Open, or compound, ones do
  • Partial or complete? Partial breaks don’t go all the way through the bone. Complete breaks mean the bone is in two or more pieces
  • Displaced or non-displaced? If the broken pieces still line up, it’s a non-displaced break. If they don’t, it’s displaced

Bones: Types of Fractures

Common types of breaks include:

  • Transverse: breaks straight across the bone
  • Stress fracture: a very thin crack, also called a hairline fracture
  • Oblique: breaks at an angle
  • Greenstick: breaks on one side, but bends on the other–like a fresh stick from a tree
  • Comminuted: bone breaks into three or more pieces

Other fracture types also include:

  • a compression fracture, which often occurs in the spine
  • Spiral fractures and avulsion fractures, when a tendon or ligament pulls off a piece of bone.

Typical Bone Fractures

Treatments of Fractures

  • Internal Fixation: Hardware (plates, rods, screws...) is used to re-align and hold the bones together.
  • External Fixation: In this type of operation, metal pins or screws are placed into the broken bone above and below the fracture site. The pins or screws are connected to a metal bar outside the skin. This device is a stabilizing frame that holds the bones in the proper position while they heal.
  • Cast Immobilization: A plaster or fiberglass cast is the most common type of fracture treatment, because most broken bones can heal successfully once they have been re-positioned and a cast has been applied to keep the broken ends in proper position while they heal.

Broken Arm