Types of Breaks in Bones in Anatomy

by Jillian O'Keeffe, Demand Media Google
Kids can get greenstick fractures as their bones are more flexible than adult bones.

Kids can get greenstick fractures as their bones are more flexible than adult bones.

When naming fractures, medical professionals can use a variety of factors to describe them. Damage to the surrounding flesh, shape of the break, location of the break and displacement of the broken bits relative to each other are all possible descriptors. One fracture can therefore have several descriptors, depending on the type of break.

Based on Descriptions of the Surrounding Flesh

An open fracture means that the bone has broken through the skin. A closed fracture is one in which the broken ends have not breached the skin. A fracture can also be simple, when the broken bone has not injured any other important structures, such as blood vessels or muscles, in the affected area. If there is damage to the structures in the vicinity, then the fracture is complicated.

Shape of the Break

A transverse fracture describes a break that is perpendicular to the long side of the bone, whereas an oblique break has a fracture line diagonally across the bone. A segmental fracture describes a break where one portion of bone has fracture lines on either side of it, and a comminuted fracture is a break with many fragments. Some fractures have a twisting fracture line due to a rotational force on the bone, earning the name spiral fracture. A green-stick fracture is common in kids and describes a partial break on one side of the bone with a bend on the other side of the bone. A torus fracture is also known as a buckle fracture and refers to a bone that is bent on one side but with the other side intact. Stress fractures are little cracks in the bone, commonly due to repeated stress on the bone from athletic pursuits.

Fractures Involving Joints

An avulsion fracture is a break where a portion of bone is ripped off by the pull of a ligament or tendon. If a fracture line damages cartilage and thereby involves the joint under the cartilage then the fracture is called an intra-articular fracture.

Location of the Break

Kids can have a fracture in the growth plates at the end of bones. This type of fracture includes epiphyseal fractures or metaphyseal fractures. If the break is in the middle portion of a long bone, on the other hand, this is called a diaphyseal fracture.

Displacement of the Bone Fragments

If a fracture is not displaced, then the broken bits are in their normal positions. A displaced fracture means the bits are not in alignment. If there is a gap between bits, then the fracture is distracted. A fragment can also be rotated, or overlap another portion of the bone in a situation called "translated fracture."

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About the Author

Jillian O'Keeffe has been a freelance writer since 2009. Her work appears in regional Irish newspapers including "The Connacht Tribune" and the "Sentinel." O'Keeffe has a Master of Arts in journalism from the National University of Ireland, Galway and a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from University College Cork.

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