Extreme trauma can snap a bone with such force that it rips through your skin. The broken end protrudes past your limb and leaves no question that this is an emergency. But most broken bones are less obvious, and it takes professional medical attention and an X-ray to detect the location and type of fracture.
At Calvary Urgent Care in Humble, Texas, Joseph Goin, MD, has diagnosed and treated thousands of broken bones in more than 30 years of delivering holistic primary and urgent care to folks in the greater Houston area.
Each fracture, like each patient, is unique, but when it comes to treating them, they all fall into two categories: those that require open reduction and those that require closed reduction. Here’s what you need to know.
Types of bone fractures
It’s easy to think of your bones as sturdy and strong — after all, they hold up your entire body and a great deal of weight every day. But a closer look reveals that bones are living, changing structures that not only give your body a frame, but also protect your organs and produce red and white blood cells.
Unfortunately, they also become less dense and more porous as you age, which makes them vulnerable to fractures. Bones can break for a variety of reasons, including trauma, stress, and overuse, and we classify the resulting fracture according to its location and features:
- Greenstick: broken only on one side of the bone
- Spiral: broken by a twisting action
- Transverse: a 90-degree break straight across the bone
- Oblique: broken at an angle
- Impacted: a compression break
- Comminuted: broken into small pieces
- Compound: broken bone protrudes through the skin
- Simple: clean break, no broken skin
Often, two or more terms are used to describe a fracture. For instance, you may have an open or closed transverse fracture.
What happens when a bone breaks?
As soon as your bone breaks, regardless of the type or severity, your body reacts. Naturally, any nearby vessels that tore during the injury begin to bleed. Within about eight hours, the blood clots and forms a fracture hematoma, which shuts down the blood flow to the bone, and bone cells begin to die.
About two days after the break, a callus forms inside and outside the fracture to stabilize it. Over the next few weeks, your body absorbs the dead cells and generates new cells. Eventually, the two sides of the bone unite, or knit together, and healing is complete.
Why it’s important to get your fracture treated
Clearly, your body is designed to heal itself, so why do you need to seek treatment for a fracture? Good question.
Although your bones can heal with or without the help of a doctor, your broken bone will “heal” in a deformed position unless someone repositions it. That’s why you need a trained medical professional like Dr. Goin to set it properly — this is called fracture reduction.
Compound, comminuted, and some other severe fractures may require surgery to reposition them. This is known as an open fracture reduction.
However, if you’ve suffered a simple fracture, Dr. Goin can perform a close reduction without surgery.
Closed reduction benefits
Fracture reductions are most effective when performed soon after the injury takes place, before it begins to heal in the wrong position. After carefully examining your fracture and determining the best way to reduce it, Dr. Goin uses manual manipulation to realign the two pieces of broken bone, which:
- Reduces your pain
- Improves healing
- Increases functionality after healing
- Relieves tension on your skin
- Lowers the risk of bone infection
If you’re in great pain, Dr. Goin may give you a local anesthetic or light sedative before the treatment. He may take a second X-ray to confirm proper placement, then he immobilizes the bone with a splint or cast.
If you suspect a fracture, don’t wait. It’s important to get treatment as soon as possible to give your bone the best chance of a full recovery with no future complications. Contact us at Calvary Urgent Care by calling our office or scheduling an appointment online.