Broken Bone (Types of Bone Fractures)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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Compression fracture

The spine is comprised of 7 cervical, 12 thoracic, and 5 lumbar vertebrae. The spine holds the body erect against gravity and to protect the spinal cord. Compression fractures can be caused by osteoporosis, injury, or trauma.

  • People with osteoporosis lose calcium from the bones, and the vertebrae may become weak and unable to hold up against the forces of gravity, so they gradually compress over time.
  • A compression fracture due to an injury may or may not have spinal cord or nerve root irritation because of the fracture.
  • A compression fracture due to trauma most likely occurs from a motor vehicle crash or fall from height.

Skull fracture

The purpose of the skull is to protect the brain. It is a flat bone and it takes a significant direct blow to cause a fracture. Because the main concern is an injury to the brain and not the skull injury , plain X-rays are not routinely performed to look for a skull fracture. Instead CT scan of the brain is recommended if there is concern about a brain injury. Skull fractures are often associated with localized swelling and bleeding at the site of injury.

Basilar skull fractures describe damage to bone at the base of the brain. Physical findings may include bloody drainage from the ear or nose, bruising behind the ear (Battle's sign), and bruising around the eyes (Raccoon eyes).

With a depressed skull fracture, the bone is broken and fragments are pushed inward. Depending upon depth of the bony depression and whether there is brain tissue involvement, surgery may be required.

With an open skull fracture, the scalp is lacerated and the wound may connect with the fibrous coverings of the brain (meninges). Surgery is often performed to help prevent infection.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/19/2015
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