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Bone Fracture
(Broken Bone)

Bone Fracture Facts

  • Bone fracture, broken bone, and bone crack all mean the same thing. The bone has been damaged such that it is no longer intact. None of these terms indicate the severity of the bone damage.
  • Bones are the body's storage place for calcium. Under hormone control, calcium content of bone is constantly increasing or decreasing.
  • Bones break when they cannot withstand a force or trauma applied to them. Sometimes the bones are so weak that they cannot withstand the force of gravity, such as compression fractures of the back in the elderly.
  • Fracture descriptions help explain how the breakage appears. For example, these descriptions may tell whether or not the fragments are aligned (displaced fracture) and whether or not the skin overlying the injury is damaged (compound fracture).
  • Fractures may be complicated by damage to nearby blood vessels, nerves and muscles and joints.
  • Fractures in children may be more difficult to diagnose because their bones lack enough calcium to be seen well on X-ray, and because injuries to growth plates (epiphyses) in the bones may not clearly show the fracture.
  • Diagnosis of a fracture includes a history and physical examination. X-rays are often taken. Occasionally, CT or MRI scans are ordered to find an occult or hidden fracture, or provide more information regarding the damage to the bone and adjacent tissues.
  • Fractures of the skull, spine and ribs have their own unique diagnosis and treatment complications.

How do bones function?

  • Bones form the skeleton of the body and allow the body to be supported against gravity to move and function in the world.
  • Bones also protect some body parts, and bone marrow is the production center for blood products.
  • Bone is a dynamic organ. It is the body's reservoir of calcium and is always undergoing change under the influence of hormones.
  • Parathyroid hormone increases blood calcium levels by leeching calcium from bone, while calcitonin has the opposite effect, allowing bone to accept calcium from the blood.
Last Reviewed 11/21/2017

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