Fracture (cont.)

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Open fractures

Open fractures (compound fractures) are injuries where the skin over the broken bone is compromised, either cut or scraped. This allows the potential for infection to invade the bone causing osteomyelitis (bone infection). Depending upon the bone involved and the type of injury and how much contamination, the patient may need to be taken to the operating room to have the area washed out. "Setting" or realigning the bone may have to wait for a second operation once the risk of infection has decreased.

Stress fracture

A stress fracture is an overuse injury. Because of repeated micro-trauma, the bone can fail to absorb the shock that is being put upon it and become weakened. Often it is seen in the lower leg, the shin bone (tibia), or foot. Athletes are at risk the most, because they have repeated footfalls on hard surfaces. Tennis players, basketball players, jumpers, and gymnasts are typically at risk. A March fracture is the name given to a stress fracture of the metatarsal or long bones of the foot. (It is named because it often occurs in soldiers who are required to march long distances.)

Diagnosis usually is made by history and physical exam. Bone scan, CT scan, or MRI may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment is conservative (no surgery is required). Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen often are all the treatment required. These fractures can take six to eight weeks to heal. Trying to return too quickly may cause re-injury, and may also allow the stress fracture to extend through the entire bone and displace, which may turn a stress fracture into a "real" fracture that requires casting or surgery. Surgery is not commonly performed for routine stress fractures.

Shin splints may have very similar symptoms as a stress fracture of the tibia but they are due to inflammation of the lining of the bone, called the periosteum. Shin splints are caused by overuse, especially in runners, walkers, dancers, including those who do aerobics. Muscles that run through the periosteum and the bone itself may also become inflamed.

Treatment is similar to a stress fracture and physical therapy can be helpful.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/9/2013

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Fracture - Describe Your Experience Question: Please describe what type of fracture you experienced.
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