How is a bone fracture treated?

A bone fracture is usually treated with a cast and/or splint. A cast or splint will immobilize the bone (keep it from moving) in order to encourage the bones to align (straighten) and to prevent use of the bone. In some cases when the bone is small (toes or fingers), no cast is needed and the fracture is immobilized by wrapping. Medication may also be prescribed to ease the pain of the fracture.

Traction may also be used to stabilize and realign fractures before surgery. Traction uses a system of pulleys and weights to stretch the muscles and tendons around the broken bone.

If a fracture is bad enough, the patient may need surgery. Hip fractures almost always require surgery, because other treatments require that the hip remain immobilized for a long time, and often have poor results. Internal and external rods and/or pins may be used to hold the bone in place to allow the bones to align.

What are the possible complications of a bone fracture?

  • Compartment syndrome: raised pressure within a closed part of the body (compartment) that cuts off blood supply to muscles and nerves. Often caused by bleeding and hematoma (a collection of blood outside of the blood vessels) around the fracture. **
  • Haemarthrosis: bleeding into a joint space that causes the joint to swell
  • Shock
  • Blood clot in a blood vessel: blockage of a blood vessel that can break off and move through the body
  • Complications from casting such as pressure ulcers and joint stiffness
  • Delayed bone healing
  • Damage to surrounding tissue, nerves, skin, blood vessels, or nearby organs
  • Wound infection

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/07/2017.


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