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Broken Leg

Medical Treatment

The type and location of a break in a leg bone will determine what treatment is needed.

  • If the bones have become displaced or out of alignment, they will need to be put back into alignment. This procedure is called "reduction." In order to do this, you will be given medications for pain prior to the procedure.

  • An emergency doctor will be able to treat many types of fractures with a temporary plaster splint and will instruct you to follow up with an orthopedic doctor (bone specialist). However, fractures of the thighbone or the shinbone typically will need further care by an orthopedist right away. This may mean a cast or even an operation.
  • Bones are immobilized for healing by several methods.

    • A plaster splint or cast often is used.

    • When an operation is needed, pins, screws, and metal plates or wires are often used to hold together the broken ends of a bone.

    • For fractures in the middle part of the thighbone (femur) or the shinbone (tibia), a metal rod sometimes is placed down through the center of the bone. This is done in the operating room.

  • Your doctor will also provide you with medicine for the pain.

Next Steps Follow-up

From the emergency department, you will usually need to follow up with an orthopedic doctor in about a week. This bone specialist will guide you in further follow-up appointments and rehabilitation as necessary.

Prevention

To decrease your risk of injury from a car accident, use a seat belt. For children, use a safety seat appropriate for the child's age and weight.

  • If participating in sports in which high speeds or heights are present, only participate to your experience level and make use of proper protective gear.
  • Use such assistance as a walker or cane, as instructed by your doctor, if you are at risk for falling or have an unsteady walk.
  • Talk to your doctor about screening for diseases that may weaken bones.

Outlook

If treated promptly and properly, a broken leg usually will regain normal function.

  • Because the major bones of the leg support our weight, at least 6-8 weeks is usually required before the bone is healed.
  • The severity of the injury and your age may cause problems. For instance, an elderly person with a hip fracture may have difficulty regaining strength and mobility.
  • Someone with an open fracture, where the bone sticks through the skin, may be at increased risk for infection of the bone. If infection occurs, this may delay significantly the healing process.

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