What Is a Bone Fracture?

Millions of broken bones or fractures occur in the United States every year. Fractures commonly result from trauma due to sports injuries or accidents, including falls. Other health conditions can also increase your risk of bone fracture.

Types of Fractures

Types of fractures include:

  • Stress fracture: Also called a hairline fracture, stress fractures are small cracks in your bone. Learn more about stress fractures.
  • Compound fracture: A fracture with broken skin is called a compound fracture or open fracture.
  • Partial and complete fractures: An incomplete break is a partial fracture. A complete fracture breaks the bone into separate pieces.
  • Displaced fracture: With this type of complete fracture, the ends of the bones are displaced, meaning they don’t line up anymore.
  • Fragility fracture: This type of fracture occurs in people with poor bone health or osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones due to loss of mineral content.
  • Greenstick fracture: In this type of fracture, an infant or child may have a bone that bends and cracks but does not break completely in two. This fracture gets its name from how the green wood of a baby tree breaks on the outside when bent. Like young tree branches, the bones of children and babies are softer than adult bones.

Fractures can occur in almost any bone in your body. They often occur in the limbs and joints. At Aurora, we offer expert treatment for all types of fractures so you can heal faster and get moving again.

The Aurora Difference

Advanced Treatment for Bone Fractures

Aurora is one of Wisconsin’s largest regional health care systems. That means we treat a large number of bone fractures every year. This vast experience translates into better results for you – no matter what type of fracture you have.

When it comes to fracture care, people count on us for:

  • Deep orthopedic expertise: Our orthopedic team specializes in areas like sports medicine and bone cancer. This deep expertise means our orthopedists are skilled at diagnosing and treating different types of bone fracture.
  • Accelerated diagnosis and treatment: Many of our locations keep same-day appointments, so you can get an evaluation fast after an injury. Our integrated system also allows your Aurora doctors to share your images with ease, so you won’t have to spend time tracking them down for your different appointments.
  • Coordinated bone fracture care: Recovering from a fracture requires help from your orthopedist, primary care doctor and physical therapist. At Aurora, your entire team will work together to get you up and running as quickly as possible. Learn how orthopedics and primary care work together at Aurora.
  • Convenient treatment locations: We have the largest number of occupational and physical therapists in the state. Access to therapy close to home makes your recovery easier and less stressful. Learn more about physical therapy.

Symptoms & Causes

Signs of a Fracture

You may have a fracture if you experience:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Deformed appearance
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Inability to use the limb or joint

Common Causes of Bone Fracture

The most common cause of fracture is trauma, whether you get injured playing sports or experience an accident like a fall. Certain health conditions can also increase your risk of fracture, including:

  • Osteoporosis: This condition causes loss of mineral content in your bones, weakening them and making them more likely to break. Osteoporosis is more common among older people, especially women.
  • Cancer: Bone cancer can make bones weaker and more likely to fracture.
  • Repetitive motion: Overuse can tire out your muscles, placing stress on the bones that can lead to stress fractures.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Fracture Tests & Imaging

The most common test doctors use to diagnose a fracture is an X-ray. An X-ray is a fast procedure that uses small amounts of radioactive energy to take pictures of your bones and internal structures.

For smaller fractures like stress fractures, you may need a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. This imaging test uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create more detailed images than X-rays. Learn more about orthopedic diagnosis at Aurora and the tools we use.

Fracture Treatment

Most fractures require a cast or splint to stabilize the break and keep it from moving. Combined with rest, a cast gives the bone time to heal and “knit” together at the ends.

If a fracture is particularly severe, you may need surgery to repair the limb or joint. In some cases, your surgeon will implant devices like pins or plates to keep your bones in place.

Find out more about orthopedic medicine and surgery.

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