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Broken Leg

Broken Leg Symptoms

The major symptoms of a broken leg are pain, swelling, and deformity. A broken leg can be very obvious but may require an X-ray to diagnose.

  • Pain caused by a broken bone is typically severe. Holding the bone still will decrease pain. Movement of the broken bone will increase pain.
  • Swelling and bruising over the area of a break are common.

    • Deformity of the leg can occur in these forms:

    • Shortening: The broken leg appears shorter than the unaffected leg.

    • Rotation: The leg below the break is twisted.

    • Angulation: The leg bends at the break instead of at the joint.

When to Seek Medical Care

Some parts of the leg may be broken and still seem like a bad strain. This can often be the case of injuries around the ankle, or sometimes with the fibula, the little bone next to the shinbone.

Call your doctor if these conditions describe your situation:

  • You are not able to walk without a great amount of pain.
  • It hurts when you push on the bony parts of the leg.
  • You are concerned that you may have a broken leg, even if you are unsure.
  • If you think you or someone else has a broken leg, go to an emergency department for further evaluation. If you cannot walk, you should call 911 for an ambulance.
  • If you have had a surgery, or had a splint or cast placed already, return to the hospital immediately if these problems develop:

    • Loss of muscle strength or numbness in the leg or foot; a certain amount of strength loss is common because of the pain of the fracture, but if there is a rapid development of numbness or worsening of strength, or a significant increase in pain unrelieved by your pain medication, these may be signs of a "compartment syndrome." Compartment syndrome occurs when swelling gets so severe within the leg that it cuts off blood flow to the leg. This can cause damage to muscles and nerves of the leg.

    • Redness, fever, increased swelling or pain, or drainage of pus from a surgical incision, are all signs of possible wound infection.

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