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Bone Fractures

Discover the surprising truth about bone fractures, including their causes, treatment options, and crucial prevention tips to ensure a stronger, healthier future.

USMLE Guide: Bone Fractures


Bone fractures are a common occurrence in medical practice, and understanding their classification, diagnosis, and management is essential for physicians. This USMLE guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of bone fractures, including their types, diagnostic approaches, and treatment options.

I. Classification of Bone Fractures

Bone fractures can be classified based on various factors. The following are the most commonly used classifications:

A. Anatomic Location

  1. Long Bone Fractures: Involving the femur, tibia, humerus, or radius.
  2. Short Bone Fractures: Affecting bones in the carpus or tarsus.
  3. Flat Bone Fractures: Occurring in the skull, scapula, or pelvis.

B. Fracture Pattern

  1. Transverse Fracture: A straight fracture line perpendicular to the bone's long axis.
  2. Oblique Fracture: An angled fracture line across the bone.
  3. Spiral Fracture: A rotational fracture pattern often seen in long bones.
  4. Comminuted Fracture: Multiple bone fragments resulting from high-energy trauma.

C. Open or Closed

  1. Open Fracture: Bone breaks through the skin, increasing the risk of infection.
  2. Closed Fracture: Skin remains intact, reducing the risk of infection.

D. Displacement

  1. Displaced Fracture: Bone ends are separated or misaligned.
  2. Non-displaced Fracture: Bone ends remain in their proper anatomical position.

II. Diagnosis of Bone Fractures

Accurate diagnosis of bone fractures involves a systematic approach, including the following steps:

A. Patient History and Physical Examination

  1. Obtain a detailed history, including the mechanism of injury, associated symptoms, and medical conditions.
  2. Perform a thorough physical examination, assessing for deformity, swelling, tenderness, and neurovascular compromise.

B. Imaging Studies

  1. X-rays: The initial imaging modality of choice, providing valuable information on fracture location, displacement, and alignment.
  2. Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: Useful for complex fractures, joint involvement, or detailed assessment of fracture fragments.
  3. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Preferred for evaluating soft tissue injuries and detecting occult fractures.

C. Additional Investigations

  1. Bone Scan: Helpful in identifying stress fractures or evaluating multiple fractures.
  2. Laboratory Tests: May include complete blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, or C-reactive protein to assess for infection or systemic conditions.

III. Management of Bone Fractures

The management of bone fractures depends on the fracture type, location, and patient factors. The following are general principles:

A. Closed Reduction and Immobilization

  1. Closed Reduction: Manipulation of fractured bone ends to restore alignment.
  2. Immobilization: Splints, casts, or traction are used to maintain alignment during healing.

B. Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF)

  1. Indicated for displaced fractures, intra-articular fractures, or fractures with vascular compromise.
  2. Involves surgical exposure, realignment, and fixation using screws, plates, rods, or external fixators.

C. Orthopedic Consultation

  1. Complex fractures, intra-articular fractures, or fractures involving weight-bearing bones often require orthopedic consultation.
  2. Surgeon evaluation helps determine the need for surgical intervention and guides post-reduction management.

D. Rehabilitation and Follow-up

  1. Physical therapy and rehabilitation are crucial for functional recovery.
  2. Regular follow-up visits monitor fracture healing, ensure proper alignment, and manage complications.


Bone fractures are a common clinical presentation that requires comprehensive understanding and management. By classifying fractures, utilizing appropriate diagnostic tools, and employing suitable treatment strategies, physicians can effectively care for patients with bone fractures.

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