Fracture (anatomy)

Fracture (anatomy), break or crack in a bone or in ossified cartilage. Simple, or closed, fractures are not visible on the surface. Compound, or open, fractures involve a rupturing of the skin, often exposing the bone. Single and multiple fractures refer to the number of breaks in the same bone. Fractures are complete if the break is total or incomplete (greenstick) if the fracture occurs only part of the distance across a bone shaft, with bending or crushing of the bone. Incomplete fractures are found mostly in young children, whose bones are resilient. Heavy impact causes most fractures but the simple activity of throwing a ball could cause a break.

Common symptoms of a fracture are severe local pain, tenderness, and swelling with some degree of deformity. X rays are the only accurate means of detecting and defining the type of fracture.

Infection in compound fractures is treated with antiseptics and antibiotics. If the broken segments lie adjacent to each other, stretching or traction to overcome the pull of powerful muscles may be used to achieve realignment, although external manipulation may sometimes bind the segments. This is called reduction. If proper alignment cannot be achieved in this way, an operation is usually performed, and the fragments are joined with screws, nuts, nails, wires or metal plates. This is open reduction. Once aligned, segments are secured externally with a plaster cast or splint to immobilize the fracture and to speed healing. When ribs are fractured, the chest is often strapped or taped to reduce pain from the motion of breathing. While healing, the body creates new tissue to join the broken segments. Minerals in the tissue harden to form solid new bone structure.

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"Fracture (anatomy)," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000

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