How Doctors Treat Broken Bones

When a bone in the body is broken, the body begins a healing process to help hold the bone in place and prevent further damage. The bone, which is a living tissue, begins to repair and rebuild itself, but often it needs a little bit of help.

While in many cases, the bone might heal eventually, without the help of a medical professional, it might result in complications and take a considerably longer amount of time. These complications include a high risk of infection when the fracture punctures skin, the risk of damaging internal organs, and the bone healing unevenly, which will result in reduced mobility.

Often, as in the case of a broken rib, internal organs, like the lungs, are punctured by the bone fragments. Other times, swelling occurs, which can prohibit oxygen from entering the tissues. This restrictive swelling is referred to as compartment syndrome.

It is also possible for the clots that form around the bone to break away and block a major artery. This could potentially blocks the blood flowing to the lungs, which is referred to as a Pulmonary Embolism. These clots are very common in fractures that occur in the pelvic region.

With all of the risks that are associated with a fracture, it is important to get checked out by a doctor. Sometimes, as in the case of a broken rib or toe, there is little the doctor can do, but even so, they are able to check to see if there are any complications associated with the fracture.

One of the first things the doctor will do is preform an x-ray. This helps the doctor see the bone and the fracture, so he can decide how to proceed. In some cases, such as in the case of a hairline fracture, it might be necessary to preform a cat scan, which is in some regards similar to an x-ray, but allows for a much more detailed look at the bones.

Once the doctor has seen the fracture, they will be able to formulate a way of treating it. If the bone punctured the skin, the wound will need to be cleaned and treated to prevent infection. Typically, the fracture is then immobilized.

In some cases, it will be necessary for the doctor to line the bone back up, so that it heals evenly. The immobilization is often in the form of a cast or splint, which lets the body heal. In the event of a serious fracture or multiple fractures, it might be necessary to place the patient in traction, which uses weights and pulleys to keep pressure off of the fracture.

Sometimes surgery is also required. This might be necessary to remove bone fragments, insert metal pins to hold the bone together, or preform a bone graft surgery. In a bone graft surgery, a piece of healthy bone is inserted into the body. Usually this bone is taken from the patient, often from their hip or rib, but there are also bone banks, which keep healthy bone frozen. The entire bone is also sometimes completely replaced as is the case in hip replacement surgery. Sometimes, a special type of cement is also inserted between the bone, which helps hold it together as it is healed.

The path to healing does not end with the visit to the doctor, because usually rehabilitation is required. This is because the treatment of a broken bone usually requires some sort of immobilization, which results in weakened muscle. Through rehabilitation, the muscle will be rebuilt and flexibility restored.

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