Bones break when forces applied upon them exceed their strength. Bones have a degree of elasticity that prevents them from being easily broken. Generally, when pressure is applied to a bone, the bone bends, and than returns to normal after the pressure is relieved. When the pressure is too great, however, the bone breaks.
Bones vary in strength and elasticity. Younger healthier bones are more sound and less apt to break under the pressure of similar forces. Bone strength can be further diminished because of bone diseases such as osteoporosis.
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Types of Breaks (Fractures)
When referring to bones, the term "fracture" and "break" are synonymous and interchangeable. Contrary to popular belief, a "break" is not worse than a "fracture".
Fractures occur in one of two ways, either because of a sudden impact (e.g. car crash or fall) or because of continued low energy pressure applied to the bone. The former type is considered a high energy break, whereas the later is called a "stress fracture."
The type of fracture that results from either a stress fracture or a high energy break fall into a number of categories that are not necessarily exclusive.
A Simple fracture is when the bone is broken into two pieces and separates.
A Hairline fracture is when the bone cracks but doesn't separate. They appear like "hairs" in an x ray.
A Comminuted Fracture is when the bone is broken into more than two pieces. Often two major pieces and a smaller piece.
An Avulsion Fracture occurs when a portion of the bone is pulled away by a tendon.
Greenstick fractures are when the bone develops tiny fissures with out actually breaking into separate pieces.
Compound fractures are when the bone breaks and punctures the skin. These are particularly complicated to treat and are dangerous because they create the possibility of infection.
Treatment of Fractures
Usually the doctor sets the limb with a plaster or fiber glass cast so that the bone may heal straight. In some cases, when the facture is more complex, setting the bone may require a surgery in which rods, pins, screws and/or plates may be used. A bone takes at least four weeks to heal properly and may take as long as two months, depending on the health and age of the patient as well as the severity of the break.
Non-union of the bone is a potential complication that generally only occurs in older patients. Ultrasounds, electromagnets and growth hormones are experimental techniques that have been used to treat mal-union bones with varying degrees of success.
Every year 6.8 million Americans suffer broken bones. Many of these fractures occur because of the negligence of others. In these instances, insurance companies and negligent parties may be able to compensate the injured party for medical bills, for pain and suffering and lost income.
The cost of bone injuries can be exorbitant, sometimes costing the injured party millions in related expenses. In some cases, persons who have suffered severe bone injury because of some one else's negligence can demand settlements of several million dollars. Below are some examples:
Falls: Falls that are related to work, occur because of construction, or a defective product (such as a faulty ladder) usually entitle the injured party to legal compensation.
Work Place Injuries: Depending on how the bone injury occurred, and whether or not the company can be shown negligent (.i.e. failed to shovel an icy walk), companies can be sued for putting their employers at risk.
Car accidents: Often the car insurance company of the injured party or the car insurance of the other driver(s) involved in the accident can help defray related expenses.
Sports: Sports related bone injuries may also entitle the injured party to compensation. Organized leagues usually have insurance and may be negligent if they don't. Legal compensation may be an option in certain circumstances.
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