First Aid for Broken Bones

There are different kinds of broken bones.

Simple or closed fractures:

  * The broken bone is not visible through the skin nor is there a skin wound near the fracture site. An example of this is a greenstick fracture. It is called this because the x-ray shows a barely visible fracture and it resembles the pattern of a very young splintered twig.

Compound or open fracture:

  * A bone may separate partially or completely from the other half and a skin wound is also present. The bone can protrude through the skin or the skin has been cut due to the injury.

Bones can break in more than one place.

Bones in children are more pliable and may resist breakage more than bones in adults. In most cases, children’s bones are still growing, especially the long bones of their arms and legs. Damage to the ends of these bones should be looked at carefully because of the risk of stunting the bone’s growth.

Bones in some senior citizens become dangerously thin with age and break easily. Also, many women after menopause and some elderly men suffer from osteoporosis, a condition which weakens the bones.

Broken bones need treatment right away. They may cause future deformities and limited movement if not properly cared for. They are also very painful.

Prevention

  * Make sure you and your child wear the right protective gear for the activity done. Items to wear include a helmet, shoulder, knee and wrist pads and a mouth guard.
  * Check that everyone in the car is wearing a seatbelt. Don’t start the engine until everyone has buckled up.
  * Talk to your physician about taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) if you are a woman who has gone through menopause.
  * Exercise. Moderate, weight-bearing exercise such as walking, aerobics and dancing increases bone mass.
  * Get enough calcium. One thousand to 1,500 mg of calcium is recommended per day. You can get this amount of calcium through good food sources such as:
      o non-fat or low-fat milk products
      o sardines
      o spinach, broccoli or other dark leafy green vegetables
      o calcium fortified foods such as some orange juices, apple juices breads and cereals

        (Note: calcium supplements may be needed to meet daily calcium requirements.)
  * If you smoke, quit. If you drink, limit the amount.

Questions
Q. Does the victim have severe bleeding from an open fracture?

Get Emergency care and give first aid before emergency care.

  * Monitor for shock , breathing and pulse .
  * Have the victim lie flat.
  * Elevate the victim’s feet 8 to 12 inches.
  * Cover the victim with a blanket or other item to keep him or her warm.
  * Remove clothing covering the wound. Cut clothing away or rip at seams, if necessary.
  * To protect yourself against possible disease:
  * If available, put on disposable latex gloves. If not available, use a plastic bag, plastic wrap or many layers of gauze pads to apply direct pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding. Try not to push on the injured bone.
  * Cover the wounded area with a clean cloth or dressing.
  * Continue to apply pressure as long as the wound bleeds. Add new dressings over existing ones.
  * Immobilize the injured area. A splint is a good way to immobilize the affected area, reduce pain and prevent shock.
  * Effective splints can be made from rolled-up newspapers and magazines, an umbrella, a stick, a cane and rolled up blankets. Place this type of item around the injury and gently hold it in place with a necktie, strip of cloth or belt. The general rule is to splint a joint above and below the fracture.
  * Or, lightly tape or tie an injured leg to the uninjured one, putting padding between the legs, if possible. Or, tape an injured arm to the chest, if the elbow is bent, or to the side if the elbow is straight, placing padding between the body and the arm.
  * For a broken arm, make a sling out of a triangular piece of cloth. Place the forearm in it and tie the ends around the neck so the arm is resting at a 90 degree angle.
  * Check the pulse in the limb with the splint. If you cannot find it, the splint is too tight and must be loosened at once.
  * Check for swelling, numbness, tingling or a blue tinge to the skin. Any of these signs indicate the splint is too tight and must be loosened right away to prevent permanent injury

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Dave R. Roger, M.D.