Brief Overview of Different Types of Fractures
A transverse fracture is a break that is perpendicular to the direction of the bone. It usually breaks from one end to the other in a jagged fashion. There is usually little deformation associated with this type of break. Swelling is commonplace around the affected area. The best way to immobilize a transverse fracture is to gently wrap the limb with some cloth padding and then some tape before elevating it to minimize swelling and discomfort.
This occurs when the bone breaks at an angle that usually points toward the far end of the limb. Swelling and minor deformation can be present as the top part of the fractured bone can become slightly dislocated and create a noticeable bulge underneath the skin. The limb can gently be raised up to align the broken bone before being padded and immobilized.
A spiral fracture often occurs if the bone has been twisted and snapped. The pattern resembles a wave that follows a similar path of an oblique fracture. However, instead of a break that travels in a straight line, a spiral fracture can have more than one break and somewhat resembles a figure eight. These fractures can leave small fragments of broken bone and be incredibly painful. You will notice swelling as well as possible deformation from the limb being out of alignment with itself.
This fracture follows a similar path to a transverse fracture but breaks into many pieces at the injury site. Extreme care should be given when trying to immobilize this type of injury as fragments can tear into surrounding tissues and cut blood vessels or arteries. Immobilizing the injury is essential to prevent further damage, and the limb will be noticeably swollen, out of alignment and deformed.
These often occur in the forearm when both bones break and fall out of alignment. They are very distinctive as the limb will take on a wavy appearance. It is important to immobilize the site without trying to set the fracture due to the complexity of the injury. These are very painful and the sharp edges of broken bone can also tear through tissue and blood vessels.
These occur as the result of forces that cause bone to bulge, break and then mash into each other. These fractures often occur in the spine or near joints. They can be significant enough that the length of bone can become noticeably shorter.
Aside from these common forms of fractures, there are certain ways to characterize different fractures. This is helpful when communicating with emergency responders or medical staff.
Incomplete or Complete
This describes whether or not the fracture has broken the entire bone or just a segment. Incomplete fractures often do not cause deformation or serious swelling. However, they are painful and bruising is common near the injury site. Immobilization is important because the structural integrity of the bone is compromised, and further injury can take place if the limb is not properly secured. A complete fracture occurs when the entire bone is broken.
Consider taking a picture of the fracture with your phone in order to allow healthcare professionals to examine and provide a preliminary assessment of the injury. This is particularly useful if you are away from immediate access to medical services and need some guidance until the patient can be brought to a facility. Doctors can guide you with respect to how to properly immobilize the injury in order to stabilize the patient until proper treatment can be obtained.
Finally, keep in mind that it’s not your job to set bones. Doing so without looking at an x-ray or under controlled conditions can aggravate the injury and cause significant harm to the patient. Focus on immobilizing the injury and transporting the patient to a hospital or clinic as quickly as possible.