Fractures and Deformity
What are Fractures?
A bone fracture is a medical condition in which a bone is cracked or broken. It is a break in the continuity of the bone. While many fractures are the result of high force impact or stress, bone fracture can also occur as a result of certain medical conditions that weaken the bones, such as osteoporosis.
The word “Fracture” implies to broken bone. A bone may get fractured completely or partially and it is caused commonly from trauma due to fall, motor vehicle accident or sports. Thinning of the bone due to osteoporosis in the elderly can cause the bone to break easily. Overuse injuries are common cause of stress fractures in athletes.
Types of fractures include:
- Simple fractures in which the fractured pieces of bone are well aligned and stable.
- Unstable fractures are those in which fragments of the broken bone are misaligned and displaced.
- Open (compound) fractures are severe fractures in which the broken bones cut through the skin. This type of fracture is more prone to infection and requires immediate medical attention.
- Greenstick fractures: This is a unique fracture in children that involves bending of one side of the bone without any break in the bone.
Our body reacts to a fracture by protecting the injured area with a blood clot and callus or fibrous tissue. Bone cells begin forming on the either side of the fracture line. These cells grow towards each other and thus close the fracture.
Medical Therapy for Fractures
The objective of early fracture management is to control bleeding, prevent ischemic injury (bone death) and to remove sources of infection such as foreign bodies and dead tissues. The next step in fracture management is the reduction of the fracture and its maintenance. It is important to ensure that the involved part of the body returns to its function after fracture heals. To achieve this, maintenance of fracture reduction with immobilization technique is done by either non-operative or surgical method.
Non-operative (closed) therapy comprises of casting and traction (skin and skeletal traction).
closed reduction is done for any fracture that is displaced, shortened, or angulated. Splints and casts made up of fiberglass or plaster of Paris material are used to immobilize the limb.
Traction method is used for the management of fractures and dislocations that cannot be treated by casting. There are two methods of traction namely, skin traction and skeletal traction.
Skin traction involves attachment of traction tapes to the skin of the limb segment below the fracture. In skeletal traction, a pin is inserted through the bone distal to the fracture. Weights will be applied to this pin, and the patient is placed in an apparatus that facilitates traction. This method is most commonly used for fractures of the thighbone.
- Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF)
This is a surgical procedure in which the fracture site is adequately exposed and reduction of fracture is done. Internal fixation is done with devices such as Kirschner wires, plates and screws, and intramedullary nails.
- External fixation
External fixation is a procedure in which the fracture stabilization is done at a distance from the site of fracture. It helps to maintain bone length and alignment without casting.
External fixation is performed in the following conditions:
- Open fractures with soft-tissue involvement
- Burns and soft tissue injuries
- Pelvic fractures
- Comminuted and unstable fractures
- Fractures having bony deficits
- Limb-lengthening procedures
- Fractures with infection or non-union
Rehabilitation for Fractures
Fractures may take several weeks to months to heal completely. You should limit your activities even after the removal of cast or brace so that the bone become solid enough to bear the stress. Rehabilitation program involves exercises and gradual increase in activity levels until the process of healing is complete.
What are Bone Deformities?
A bone deformity is an abnormality in the bone structure. It commonly affects the limbs and may be characterized by abnormal angulation, rotation or displacement of the bone.
Symptoms of Bone Deformities
A bone deformity can cause a discrepancy in limb length, and problems in movement and gait.
Causes of Bone Deformities
Bone deformities may be due to
- Congenital abnormalities: Seen at birth
- Developmental abnormalities: Due to abnormal bone growth in childhood
- Posttraumatic: Abnormal healing or non-union of a fracture
Treatment of Bone Deformities
Bone deformities may be treated by corrective osteotomy, a surgical procedure that involves cutting of the bone and repositioning the fragments so that they unite and heal in the correct orientation. Rods, wires, plates and screws may be used to stabilize or fixate the bone fragments while healing.
Correction of a bone deformity may be carried out through a gradual process using external fixation methods. This avoids complications such as soft tissue stretching or damage to the surrounding tissues. A spatial frame external fixator is a device that slowly and incrementally corrects deformities along various planes based on a computer analysis of the deformed bone. The bone is first cut, the frame is applied, and periodic adjustments are made to lengthen, rotate or straighten the bone. The incision or pin sites for the frame should be kept clean to avoid infection.
In growing children with deformities of the long bones, staples may be used on one side of the growth plate to arrest growth on that side and guide the bone to grow correctly. This is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure.
Rehabilitation following Treatment of Bone Deformities
Following correction of a deformity, you will go through a rehabilitation process to strengthen the limb, improve range of motion and promote healing. You are encouraged to follow a healthy diet and avoid smoking.