A fracture is a broken bone or cartilage. A bone may be completely fractured or partially fractured in any number of ways (crosswise, lengthwise, in multiple pieces). Fractures can range in severity from minor inconveniences which very little medical intervention, to severe, life-threatening injuries that take months or years for full recovery. Improper treatment of fractures can even lead to debilitating changes to the body’s strength and mobility.
All bone fractures, regardless of cause, are sorted into two major classes: simple and compound fractures. Fractures are also classified according to their character and location.
•Simple fractures, also called closed fractures, are broken bones that remain within the body and do not penetrate the skin.
•Compound fractures, also called open fractures, are broken bones that penetrate through the skin and expose the bone and deep tissues to the exterior environment.
Compound fractures are considered much more serious than simple fractures because they may be complicated by deep infections if pathogens enter the body through the wound. Antibiotics are often used to prevent possible infections that may be associated with compound fractures.
•Greenstick fracture: an incomplete fracture in which the bone is bent. This type occurs most often in children.
•Transverse fracture: a fracture at a right angle to the bone’s axis.
•Oblique fracture: a fracture in which the break has a curved or sloped pattern.
•Comminuted fracture: a fracture in which the bone fragments into several pieces.
•An impacted fracture is one whose ends are driven into each other. This is commonly seen in arm fractures in children and is sometimes known as a buckle fracture.
Other types of fracture are pathologic fracture, caused by a disease that weakens the bones, and stress fracture, a hairline crack.
The period immediately after a bone fracture is critical for the proper repair of the bone and healing of the affected tissues. Bones begin to heal very quickly after a fracture and the bone tissue will knit together with any nearby bone fragments to form a callus of cartilage and eventually new bone tissue. The ultimate goal of bone healing is to reach a proper union of the fractured bone pieces that restores the original bone anatomy and restores full function to the muscles and joints that move the bone.
When a bone is broken, the first step in repair is to take an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis and to provide a clear picture of the type of fracture and the degree of displacement and misalignment. The first aim in treatment is to see that bone ends that abut each other are in alignment so that, when the fracture heals, the bone will retain its previous shape. Bone ends that have been displaced are manually maneuvered back into position. The bone may be manipulated through the skin using a local or general anesthetic, or the bone may be repositioned by means of an operation during which the site is opened.
Once the fracture has been placed in proper position, the bone is immobilized to allow the broken pieces to reunite firmly. In most cases a rigid cast is used to immobilize the bones for several weeks and achieve the proper union. In severe cases, the ends of the fractured bone may be fixed in place by metal pins connected to an external frame; once the fracture has healed, the pins and frame are removed. In other cases an operation is performed to open up the injury site and fasten together the bone pieces with metal screws, nails, plates, rods, or wires. Even after the bones have healed the metal hardware is left within the body permanently to prevent possible infection from a removal surgery.
The older a person is, the longer it takes for a bone to heal; a child may recover within a few weeks and an elderly person may take several months. At all ages, some bones will heal faster than others. An arm may heal in a month, but a leg may take up to six months. Once a bone mends, it is usually stronger along the fracture line than it was before the break.
The elderly, as well as those in poor health, may experience a condition known as delayed union, where the bone takes longer than normal to heal. People in the risk groups for delayed union may also be susceptible to nonunion fractures where the bones fail to fuse together. Nonunion fractures may also occur in otherwise healthy people that have not had their bones medically treated or have suffered an infection or severe trauma to the soft tissues surrounding the fracture site.
Another risk of avoiding medical treatment is the possibility of a malunion, where the bones are not properly aligned and fuse in a way that is not anatomically correct. The results of a malunion vary by severity and the region of the body affected, but may include pain, loss of mobility, and loss of bone and muscle strength.
The severity of the fracture depends on the fractures location as well as damage to the bone and surrounding tissue. The time it takes to recover from a fracture not only depends on the severity, but also depends on the age and the health of the person who sustained the injuries. For example, a high-severity fracture in an older person can take months until it heals completely.
After sustaining a fracture, it is important to understand your legal rights and the type of help available. A Jones Act attorney at the Dysart Law Firm, P.C. will be able to offer you the legal expertise you need to guide you through the process after a marine injury. Your recovery time means time off of work, medical expenses, and likely other expenses that you may be able to get covered. The best way to find out what types of help are available is by speaking to an attorney at the Dysart Law Firm, P.C., for a free consultation.
If you have been injured in a towboat or marine industry accident and sustained fractures, contact a Jones Act attorney today.