What Is a Comminuted Fracture?

If you have a broken bone, your doctor might refer to it as a bone fracture. There are different types of fractures. One kind is a comminuted fracture. This injury happens when your bone breaks into three or more pieces.

Fractures can be open or closed. If your skin breaks open from the wound, doctors call it a comminuted open or compound fracture. If your skin doesn’t break, you have a comminuted closed or simple fracture.

Comminuted fractures usually happen after very forceful events, like a severe fall or car accident.

Diagnosis of Comminuted Fractures

Your doctor will diagnose your comminuted fracture through tests or scans. They might use:

X-ray. This test uses energy beams to take pictures of your bones and other parts of your body. Your bones will show up as white parts of the image. If your bone has a fracture, it’ll show up as a darker spot on the X-ray.

MRI. These scans use a large magnet and a computer to take pictures of the inner parts of your body from outside of you. Your doctor will analyze these pictures on a computer monitor to find any fractures.

CT scan. Your doctor may use this scan to create horizontal and vertical images of your body. These are more detailed scans than regular X-rays.

Treatment for Comminuted Fractures

Your care will vary based on your age, overall health, severity of the injury, tolerance for certain treatments, and preference.

But no matter which treatment you get, the goal is to heal the injury, control your pain, avoid issues, and repair the function of the affected area.

Your treatment may involve:

Surgery. You might need to have surgery if you have a comminuted fracture. This will help put your broken bones back into place. Sometimes your doctor will use metal rods or pins, called internal or external fixation, to hold your bone fragments together while they heal. These might go inside or outside of your body.

Medication. You may need pain medicine to feel better.

Splint/cast. After surgery, you’ll usually get a splint or cast to keep your injured area in place, so that you can’t move it. This will help your bone heal properly.

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Traction. You might need to use a pulley, string, weight, or metal frame to stretch your muscles and tendons around the broken bone. This will help the ends of your bones stay in position and heal properly.

If you have an open fracture, your treatment will be slightly different than a closed one. Since the fracture broke your skin, there’s a chance that bacteria and other toxins got into your wound. To avoid an infection, your doctor will first clean your broken skin, tissues, and bones.

When to Call Your Doctor

If you think you might’ve broken a bone, see your doctor. If your injury caused an open wound, get emergency medical attention right away.

Harm to the bones in your spinal cord is also a medical emergency. Call 911 if you think someone has injured their spinal cord.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on February 24, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: “Bone Fractures.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Fractures.”

The Nemours Foundation: “Comminuted Fractures.”

Stanford Medicine: “Fractures – X-ray.”

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Open Fractures.”

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