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In this lesson, you’ll learn about the many different kinds of bone fractures that may occur. We’ll discuss open, closed, comminuted, complete, incomplete, and many other types of fractures and joint dislocations.

Fractures and Luxations

While breaking a bone is kind of a big bummer, not to mention painful, at the very least you can look forward to your friends signing and drawing all sorts of weird things on the cast. Another cool thing you may get to see is the X-ray or picture your doctor took of the bone to determine how badly it was broken and what kind of fracture it may have been. That’s what this lesson will address – the different types of fractures and luxations your bones can experience.

Complete Fractures

Before we continue with this lesson, let’s define a fracture.

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A fracture is a complete or partial crack in the bone; that’s kind of it. In order to better grasp the many different types of fractures, let’s pretend you’re a strong medieval knight for this lesson. You’re participating in an event to demonstrate your swordsmanship and strength in front of the king and queen while simultaneously teaching them about the kinds of gruesome injuries a knight may suffer on the battlefield.First, you take a stick and put each end gingerly on top of two opposing tables. The middle of the stick is suspended in the air. As you take your sword and, at a ninety degree angle to the stick, slice it in half, you demonstrate something known as a transverse fracture. Had you sliced that same stick at a slight angle, then the resulting break would be known as an oblique fracture.

Further still, you decide to take another stick and demonstrate your superb arm strength. You take the stick and twist one end in one direction while simultaneously twisting the other end in the other direction until the stick breaks apart. This type of twisting motion results in what is known as a spiral fracture.Because, in all of these instances, the bone has separated completely, it is known as a complete fracture. Again, a complete fracture is a fracture where the bone loses its continuity.

Had you been really mean and taken a mace instead of a sword and crushed the stick into three or more pieces instead of slicing it into two pieces, you would have created a comminuted fracture, which is a fracture that has three or more fragments. It basically looks like a broken eggshell or a stick broken into many pieces.

Incomplete Fractures

Complete and comminuted fractures are in contrast to incomplete fractures.

These are fractures where a portion of the bone remains intact, meaning the bone hasn’t lost all continuity or separated completely. As a knight, you can demonstrate this by taking a very young, supple, and green stick into your hands. Try breaking it apart. Unlike old and dry sticks, it won’t crack in half.

Instead, you’ll notice that this green stick breaks somewhat on one side, but the other side remains completely intact. This type of incomplete fracture is known as, you guessed it, a greenstick fracture. Kind of easy to remember, no?What’s also easy to remember is because a greenstick fracture occurs most often in bones that are young, supple, and easily bendable, it’s no surprise that this type of fracture usually occurs more often in children, whose bones are more bendable than adults and less likely to suffer a complete fracture.

Open vs. Closed

Now, when a fracture occurs, it can result in two major subtypes. It can be an open or a closed fracture. An open fracture is a fracture that causes the communication of the fracture and bone with the outside environment.

Basically, the bone breaks the skin open. However, the bone doesn’t have to be showing through the skin in order for it to be considered an open fracture!As long as even a small hole in the skin occurs as a result of the fracture, and therefore causes the communication of the outside environment with the fracture itself, it is considered to be an open fracture. This is in contrast to a closed fracture, which is a fracture that remains enclosed by the overlying skin. Here, because the skin is not broken, the bone and internal wound are far safer from the infectious potential of the outside world.

Luxation vs. Subluxation

Finally, bones don’t always have to break during an injury; they can do other things as well. For instance, you know that swords are fitted into a handle or hilt that you could grasp to wield the sword around. Similarly, our bones are fitted into places called joints, where the bones are held together in different arrangements.If, in the course of wielding your sword, the blade completely pops out of the hilt, that would be akin to a luxation, or joint dislocation.

If it only partially came out of the hilt, it would be known as a subluxation, or partial joint dislocation. In essence, a luxation or subluxation means that the place where two or more bones meet, a joint, has caused the bones in a joint to move away from one another into an improper position. This usually results in the inability to use the joint properly. That’s kind of easy to understand since, if the blade separates from the hilt, it would be kind of difficult to use the sword in a battle.

Lesson Summary

Since that sword is now broken, you can forget about using it, but don’t forget the important things we covered.

  • There are two major types of fractures. A fracture is a complete or partial crack in the bone.
  • A fracture can either be an open fracture, or a fracture that causes the communication of the fracture and bone with the outside environment, or it can be a closed fracture, which is a fracture that remains enclosed by the overlying skin.
  • Furthermore, a fracture can also be a complete fracture, which is a fracture where the bone loses its continuity, or an incomplete fracture, which is a fracture where a portion of the bone remains intact.
  • Finally, an example of a very serious fracture is called a comminuted fracture, which is a fracture that has three or more fragments.

Learning Outcomes

Following this lesson, you’ll have the ability to:

  • Differentiate between open and closed fractures, as well as between complete and incomplete fractures
  • Describe types of complete fractures
  • Explain what happens during luxations and subluxations

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