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  • Randon Hall, MD

Broken or Fractured? What's the difference?

What's the Difference Between a Broken Bone or Fractured Bone?

Generally speaking in orthopedics, we use the two terms interchangeably, so I would say there is no difference between the two terms with reference to the bone. The common misconception is that a very small bone injury is referred to as a fracture, and a significant bone injury is referred to as a break. Honestly, I believe this comes from the use of the term "hairline fracture" which has come to mean a very small break in the bone that is as thin as a hair. However, it would still be appropriate to refer to this as a broken bone.

WHAT else do i need to know about broken bones?

There are other categories of broken or fractured bones as well. For example, when the bone is broken and a piece has punctured or is extending out of the skin, that is considered an open fracture or a compound fracture. An injury that occurs when a smaller piece of the bone is pulled off the larger bone, usually at the attachment of a ligament or tendon, it is called an avulsion fracture. A bone that has been broken into several small pieces, usually due to a significant impact, is considered a comminuted fracture. A small break that causes a minor indentation to the bone is called a buckle fracture. In regards to the positioning of the bones, if the two ends of the fracture are not lined up properly, that is referred to as displacement. Lastly, if a broken bone has tilting between the two ends of the fracture, that is described as angulation and is usually assigned a certain amount in "degrees of angulation".

Distal Radius Fracture

Photo by Dave Pape

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