Tough Break: Fracture First-Aid and Beyond

Getting bone fractures diagnosed and treated in a timely manner is important to help with proper healing.

By Courtesy Lake Regional Health System
Rick Walker, D.O. — photo provided
About 6 million Americans will suffer a broken bone this year. In every case, it will be important to get the fracture diagnosed and treated in a timely manner. Failing to do so could lead to improper healing and long-term problems.

“The signs of fracture include tenderness directly over the area of bone affected, any deformity, pain with movement, swelling, bruising and, if in the lower limb, an inability to bear weight on the area,” said Rick Walker, D.O., a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Lake Regional. “Bruising doesn’t usually show up until 24 to 48 hours after the injury.”
Children don’t always exhibit fracture symptoms beyond pain, so if a broken bone is suspected in a child, get it checked.

“Children’s ligaments are stronger than the growth plate around joints,” Dr. Walker said. “Therefore, the ligament will remain intact, but the growth plate and the bone around the growth plate can be injured. Do not assume a joint injury in a child is a sprain. It may actually be a fracture at the growth plate area or in the area of the bone around the growth plate. A physician should evaluate the injury and determine if X-rays are needed.”
All About Immobilization

If you think you are dealing with a bone fracture, immediately immobilize the area. Call 911 if the break is open (punctures the skin) or if it is sustained during a crush injury. Get to an emergency department if pain or swelling is severe or if there is any deformity. If the pain is minor and swelling can be kept to a minimum, call your doctor or go to urgent care.

If the skin is punctured, that area should be covered with a clean bandaging material. Do not attempt to put the bone back under the skin. EMS should be contacted for proper care.
“The first step usually is to elevate the part that’s injured just above the heart, and apply an icepack,” Dr. Walker said. “Use a piece of cardboard or thick towel to make a splint. If it’s a large bone fracture, such as the hip or leg, you may need to call 911 for transport to keep the fracture site immobilized en route to the hospital.”

Your doctor will physically examine the area of injury and order an X-ray to confirm a fracture has occurred.
Most fractures are treated simply through immobilization with a splint or cast. Major fractures are treated with surgery and, in severe cases, pins or rods may be placed to keep the bone together while it heals.

Healing times vary depending on fracture site and severity of the break. Most bone heals within six to 10 weeks, Dr. Walker said. In addition to following doctor’s orders and keeping the affected area clean, dry, elevated and free from overuse, Dr. Walker has one piece of advice: “Stop smoking. Smoking is detrimental to healing fractures and just smoking less won’t help. You need to quit in order to heal.”

-Courtesy Lake Regional Health System

Please note this article has been taken from the USA, our emergency services number in Australia is 000.

Imobolising fractures is very important and in a one day first aid course with Canberra First Aid we will not only teach you why but we will give you the opportunity to learn the skills on completing splints and slings. Come and join one of our first aid courses now so you are prepared for the worst.

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