What is a fracture?

A bone fracture is a broken bone. The four types of bone fractures are a stable fracture, a compound fracture, a transverse fracture and an oblique fracture.
A bone fracture is a broken bone. The four types of bone fractures are a stable fracture, a compound fracture, a transverse fracture and an oblique fracture.

In short, a fracture is a broken bone. Your bones are designed to be flexible and even bend to a certain degree. When a force against your body is too strong your bones can break. The severity of the break determines what kind of fracture it is. 

The four most common types of fracture are: 

  • Stable fracture: The ends of your broken bones bone line up and are not significantly out of place
  • Compound fracture: This is when your broken bone pierces the skin, exposing your bone to air. The bone may or may not be visible from the wound.
  • Transverse fracture: This fracture occurs in a horizontal line across your bone.
  • Oblique fracture: This type of fracture happens at an angle. 

Additional bone fracture types include:

  • Avulsion fracture: One piece of bone is separated from the rest of your bone.
  • Buckled fracture: The ends of two bones are driven into each other.
  • Comminuted fracture: Your bone breaks into multiple pieces.
  • Compression or wedge fracture: This is common among the vertebrae in your back. 
  • Greenstick fracture: Your bone is bent but not broken.
  • Linear fracture: The break runs vertically down the length of your bone.
  • Oblique fracture: The place where your bone broke is curved. 
  • Pathologic fracture: A fracture caused by weakened bones.
  • Spiral fracture: Your bone twisted at the place where it is broken.
  • Stress fracture: This is also called a hairline fracture because it is so small.
  • Transverse fracture: The broken piece of bone is at a right angle to the rest of your bone.

Symptoms of the 4 types of fractures

Fractures occur when you have an accident that causes trauma to your body. 

You may get into a car accident, fall, or have some other forceful impact. Some broken bones are obvious. At times the fracture may be mild enough that you don’t realize how bad your injury is. 

Signs that you have a fracture include:

  • Severe pain in the injured area of your body
  • Swelling around the impact
  • An obvious deformity, like your bone sticking out of the skin
  • Loss in range of motion or the inability to use that part of your body
  • Bruises or redness and warmth

Causes of the 4 types of fractures

Your bones are designed to be strong and support your body. They can absorb some force with little or no damage. However, when an impact on your body is stronger than your bones, fractures occur. 

Your bones are especially prone to fractures when they are twisted.

Other health conditions like osteoporosis can contribute to the likelihood of fractures. When your bones are weaker, they are more likely to break. 

Similarly, repetitive motion of an area can put more force on your bones, leading to fractures. This is very common in sports where muscles become tired easily and put your bones at risk for damage.

Diagnosis for fractures

Only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose which of the four types of fracture you may have.

Your doctor will ask questions about what happened to make you suspect a fracture. They will then do a physical assessment of the area and then follow up with an x-ray. The only way to determine what kind of fracture you sustained in an accident is by an x-ray.

X-rays allow your bone to stand out against all the other tissue in your body. They give your doctor a clear picture of the trauma to your bone and how extensive the damage is. 

Once the type of fracture is identified, your doctor can create a treatment plan.

Treatments for fractures

Your treatment depends on the severity of your fracture. 

Common ways to fix broken bones include:

  • Hard cast: Your doctor repositions your bone and then wraps it in a hard cast that keeps the bone in place as it heals. 
  • Functional cast: This cast is softer and allows for movement of nearby joints while still keeping your broken bone in place.
  • Traction: This is a method of pulling your bone that your doctor may use to align it for proper healing. It is often used in conjunction with a cast.
  • External fixation: This is used for severely broken bones when your skin and flesh are also damaged. Your doctor sets your bone externally using metal plates and pins until your body heals enough to tolerate surgery.
  • Internal fixation: Your doctor will perform surgery to reposition your bone and use metal plates and pins to hold the bone in place permanently under your skin. 

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Medically Reviewed on 2/16/2021
References
SOURCES:

Boston Children’s Hospital: "Fractures."

OrthoInfo: "Fractures (Broken bones)."

Orthopedic Institute at Southwest Health: "TYPES OF FRACTURES."

Stanford Health Care: "Fracture Symptoms."