Broken bones or technically describes as “fracture” is a condition in which there is a break in the continuity of bones.
A fracture may result due to
- Direct/indirect injury as a result of a fall, accident or any direct hit by a heavy object.
- Pathological fracture- when the bones are already weakened due to an underlying medical condition such as osteoporosis, prolonged steroid use etc. In these cases even a minimal injury may lead to a fracture
- Bone healing or fracture healing is a physiological process of restoration of bone tissue and function. The doctor’s role is to facilitate this natural process so that the healing takes place in a predictive manner. This facilitation may be in form of conservative or surgical manner depending upon the type and location of fracture, age, joint surface involvement, quality of bone etc.
Bone healing by Conservative methods – No Surgery :-
This involves reduction of the broken bones into a proper alignment and then maintaining this position with the help of a plaster cast till the entire duration of the healing which may wary from 6-8 weeks depending upon the fracture type.
The advantage of plaster treatment is that it’s a quick process and does not require prolonged hospital stay .The disadvantage is that, prolonged immobilization, is required which may lead to stiffness of the joints. Sometimes the reduction achieved may be lost during the course of immobilization leading to malunion.Not all fractures are amenable to plaster treatment and the decision is left best to the treating doctor.
Bone healing by Surgical Methods:-
This involves surgically reducing the fracture and maintaining the reduction with help of implants such as plates, screws or nails. The advantage of surgical treatment is that the results are much more predictable and controlled with early restoration of function and minimal chances of stiffness of the joints. The disadvantages could be complications of surgical procedure such as infection etc.
The surgical art and science of bone healing has evolved tremendously over times with advent of minimally invasive procedures and newer low profile implants which facilitate bone healing with minimal chances of any complication.
Newer methods such as certain medications ultrasonic therapies etc. are experimental and research tools which have shown some promising results in fracture healing but till date these cannot be termed as mainstay treatment in bone healing.
Inadequate nutrition, smoking, alcohol abuse ,osteoporosis, underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer etc. prolonged use of certain medications such as steroids are patient related factors that might lead to delay or inadequate bone healing.
Bone healing is an art mastered over time by the involved doctor facilitating nature’s natural process. We not only repair broken bones but by facilitating healing we develop a bond not only between bones but with the patient itself which lasts a lifetime.