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Understanding Bone Fractures -- Diagnosis and Treatment

What Are the Treatments for a Bone Fracture? continued...

Fractured bones must be set in their proper place and held there in order to heal properly. Setting a bone is called "reduction." Repositioning bone without surgery is "closed reduction." Most fractures in children are treated with closed reduction. Serious fractures may require open reduction -- repositioning using surgery. In some cases, devices such as pins, plates, screws, rods, or glue are used to hold the fracture in place. Open fractures must also be cleaned thoroughly to avoid infection.

After setting, most fractures are immobilized with a cast, splint, or, occasionally, traction to reduce pain and help healing. In most cases, medication is limited to painkillers to reduce pain. In open fractures, antibiotics are administered to prevent infection. Rehabilitation begins as soon as possible, even if the bone is in a cast. This promotes blood flow, healing, maintenance of muscle tone, and helps prevent blood clots and stiffness.

After the cast or splint is removed, the area around the fracture usually is stiff for several weeks with swelling and bumps. In children, increased hair on the arms and legs due to irritation of the hair follicles from the cast can occur. With fractured legs, there may be a limp. Symptoms generally disappear within a few weeks.

If you have broken a bone, once the cast or splint is removed you should gradually begin using the area again. It may take another four to six weeks for the bone to regain past strength. Ask your doctor what activity type and intensity is safe for you, based on your fracture and overall health. Exercising in a swimming pool is generally a good way to rehabilitate bones.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 31, 2014
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