If more pressure is put on a bone than it can stand, it will split or break. A break of any size is called a fracture. If the broken bone punctures the skin, it is called an open fracture (compound fracture).
A stress fracture is a break in the bone that develops because of repeated or prolonged forces against the bone. The repeated stress weakens the bone until it finally breaks.
Bone - broken; Fracture; Stress fracture; Bone fracture
It is hard to tell a dislocated joint from a broken bone. However, both are emergency situations, and the basic first aid steps are the same.
The following are common causes of broken bones:
Symptoms of a broken bone include:
First aid steps include:
CHECK BLOOD CIRCULATION
Check the person's blood circulation. Press firmly over the skin beyond the fracture site. (For example, if the fracture is in the leg, press on the foot). It should first blanch white and then "pink up" in about 2 seconds. Signs that circulation is inadequate include pale or blue skin, numbness or tingling, and loss of pulse.
If circulation is poor and trained personnel are NOT quickly available, try to realign the limb into a normal resting position. This will reduce swelling, pain, and damage to the tissues from lack of blood.
Place a dry, clean cloth over the wound to dress it.
If the bleeding continues, apply direct pressure to the site of bleeding. DO NOT apply a tourniquet to the extremity to stop the bleeding unless it is life threatening. Tissue can only survive for a limited amount of time once a tourniquet is applied.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call 911 if:
Even though other broken bones may not be medical emergencies, they still deserve medical attention. Call your health care provider to find out where and when to be seen.
If a young child refuses to put weight on an arm or leg after an accident, won't move the arm or leg, or you can clearly see a deformity, assume the child has a broken bone and get medical help.
Take the following steps to reduce your risk of a broken bone:
Geiderman JM, Katz D. General principles of orthopedic injuries. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 42.
Kim C, Kaar SG. Commonly encountered fractures in sports medicine. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee Drez & Miller’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 10.
Whittle AP. General principles of fracture treatment. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, Canale ST, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 53.
Review Date: 2/26/2020
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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