Trauma patients typically need thoughtful, timely intervention to minimize complications, speed recovery, and return the patient to maximum functional capability. In patients with open fractures, emergent irrigation and debridement of the traumatic wounds is necessary. Most displaced unstable fractures require surgical stabilization.

Injuries requiring the intervention of a trauma specialist are generally acute in nature, although trauma specialists are often called upon to evaluate the chronic effects of past trauma. Patients with the following acute and chronic conditions may benefit from referral to a trauma and fracture care specialist: fractures of upper or lower extremities, complex periarticular injuries, pelvic and acetabular fractures, complex femoral fractures, injuries requiring internal or external fixation, injuries caused by falls and injuries requiring post-traumatic bone reconstruction.

A bone may be completely fractured or partially fractured in any number of ways (cross-wise, lengthwise, in the middle). Fractures can happen in a variety of ways as well, such as a fall, a motor vehicle accident, a sports injury, osteoporosis, and overuse resulting in a stress fracture. Usually, you will know immediately if you have broken a bone. You may hear a snap or cracking sound. The area around the fracture will be tender and swollen. A limb may be deformed, or a part of the bone may puncture through the skin.

Doctors use casts, splints, pins, or other devices to hold a fracture in the correct position while the bone is healing. External fixation methods include plaster and fiberglass casts, cast-braces, splints, and other devices. Internal fixation methods hold the broken pieces of bone in proper position with metal plates, pins, or screws while the bone is healing.

Fractures take several weeks to several months to heal, depending on the extent of the injury and how well you follow your doctor’s advice. Pain usually stops long before the fracture is solid enough to handle the stresses of normal activity. You will need a period of rehabilitation that involves exercises and gradually increasing activity before those tissues will perform their functions normally and the healing process is complete.