What Is a Closed Fracture?

Reviewed on 8/16/2022
A child's broken arm in a cast
A closed fracture (simple fracture) is a broken bone with the skin still intact.

A fracture is a broken bone. A closed fracture (also called a simple fracture) is one in which a bone is broken, but the skin remains intact. Most fractures are considered closed fractures.

  • Another type of fracture is called an open fracture (or compound fracture), which differs from a closed fracture because the bone can be seen protruding from the skin or is visible through a deep wound.
  • An open fracture is a medical emergency. Seek medical attention immediately if a bone pierces the skin or can be seen through an open wound following an injury. 

What Are Symptoms of a Closed Fracture?

Symptoms of a closed fracture may include:

  • Sudden pain
  • Swelling
  • Skin redness in the injured area
  • Warmth
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty using or moving the injured area or nearby joints
  • Obvious deformity

If the spine is injured, this is a medical emergency. Call 911 if you suspect someone has fractured a bone in the spine. Symptoms of a closed spinal fracture may include the above and/or: 

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness
  • Bladder or bowel problems

What Causes a Closed Fracture?

Closed fractures occur usually when excess force is put on the bone. A twisting, jarring, or bending motion to bones can result in fractures. 

Causes of closed fractures may include:  

  • Falling
  • Trauma
  • A direct blow or kick to the body
  • Overuse or repetitive motions which tire muscles can put more pressure on the bone and cause a stress fracture
  • Diseases that weaken the bone

How Is a Closed Fracture Diagnosed?

A closed fracture is diagnosed with a patient history which will include questions about how the injury occurred and a physical examination. 

Tests used to diagnose the location and extent of a fracture may include:

What Is the Treatment for a Closed Fracture?

Treatment for a closed fracture involves:  

  • Putting the bone back in place and keeping it from moving
  • Pain management
  • Time for the bone to heal
  • Preventing complications
  • Restoring normal function

Treatment for a closed fracture may include:

  • Splint or cast 
    • immobilizes the injured area 
    • aligns the bones
    • protects the area while the bone heals
  • Pain medication
  • Traction
    • Use of pulleys, strings, weights, and a metal frame attached over or on the bed to create a steady pulling action to stretch parts of the body in a certain direction
    • The purpose is to stretch muscles and tendons around the broken bone so the bone ends align and heal
  • Surgery 
    • May be needed in some cases
    • Internal fixation: metal rods or pins placed inside the bone
    • External fixation devices: metal rods or pins used outside of the body
Reviewed on 8/16/2022

Image source: iStock Images