According to the 2017 health statistics report published by the Department of Health, over 41,000 patients were hospitalized for various types of bone fractures in Hong Kong during the year, and about 90 of them died from this medical condition.
What is a bone fracture?
A bone fracture is when a bone breaks or changes its shape due to excessive external forces that exceed the bone's ability to withstand them. Other causes such as accumulated stress, osteoporosis, etc., can also cause a bone to break. Fractures vary significantly depending on the age of the injured person. For example, elderlies are more likely to experience broken bones due to osteoporosis, while children tend to experience greenstick fractures or growth plate fractures as their bones are softer and easier to bend since they are still in their development phase.
|The bone bends and cracks, instead of breaking into separate pieces. This medical situation is named greenstick fracture as the bone behaves like a fresh green twig when it is being bent.|
There are many causes of bone fractures, and they can generally be categorized into the following types.
|This is the most common cause of fractures. Bone breaks when the direct external forces it receives exceeds its ability to withstand them.|
|It is not caused by external forces, but by pathological conditions of the patient, such as cancer cells spreading to the bones (bone metastases), incomplete growth of bones that is congenital, etc.|
Patients will have different symptoms depending on the severity of their bone fractures. The most common ones are swelling, bruising or deformation of the fracture site, and this often leads to pain. However, if the fracture is severe, it may cause internal bleeding or the following symptoms:
- Mild headache
- Fever or faintness
Risk factors for bone fractures
- Postmenopausal women
- People with chronic illnesses
- Osteoporosis patients
Fractures can generally be diagnosed by X-ray, but in cases of complex or comminuted fractures, patients may need a CT scan.
Treatment for bone fractures
Bone fracture treatments aim to set the broken bone back to its original position. Doctors will choose the most appropriate treatment based on the location of the patient’s bone fracture and its severity. If it is a simple fracture, a plaster cast will be used to immobilize the broken bone. However, if the fracture cannot be treated with reduction, surgery may be required to stabilize the bone with nails or plates.
|Bone pieces are moved back into their correct position manually, which allows them to heal in 6-8 weeks.|