The femur is the biggest and generally the strongest bone in the human body. Fractures take a long time to heal. Normal activities of daily living are impacted as it is the main bone used for walking and standing. Depending on the type of fracture and potential complications the impact will last a lifetime.
There are several types of fractures. Each has its own characteristics. Each fracture is dependent on the force that breaks the femur.
These types of fractures include:
- stable fracture – pieces of bone line up
- displaced fracture – bone is out of alignment
- closed fracture – the skin remains intact
- open fracture – bone punctures the skin
Fractures are classified by:
- location – distal, medial, proximal
- pattern – bone breaks in different directions (crosswise, lengthwise, in the middle)
- skin and muscle damage
The most common femoral shaft fractures include:
- transverse – straight horizontal break across the shaft
- oblique – angled line across the shaft
- spiral – spirals the bone shaft caused by a twisting force
- open – bone or fragments stick through the skin; also known as a compound fracture; there is damage to tissues, tendons, and ligaments. High risk of complications.
- comminuted – bone breaks into three or more pieces
Common symptoms noted with a femoral break include:
- immediate severe pain
- cannot bear weight
- injured leg appears to be shorter and/or looks crooked
A femoral fracture is normally found in severe accidents such as an automobile accident. Elderly people are subject to femoral breaks from falling due to weak bones. Hip fractures are also common with the elderly.
Common complications from femur fractures are related to the following:
- the bone must be set properly – there’s a chance injured leg may become shorter and can cause chronic hip and knee pain; poor alignment can be painful
- peripheral injury – muscles, ligaments, and tissues can be damaged
- surgical – infection or blood clots, common surgical risks
- Compartment syndrome
On a special note: Compartment syndrome is caused when increased pressure inside a closed space, that compromises circulation and function of surrounding tissues. Temporary or permanent damage to muscles and nerves may result in temporary or permanent damage.
Compartment syndrome may be:
- Acute – most often caused by trauma, generally more minor. Prompt diagnosis and urgent treatment are required.
- Chronic – usually caused by exercise. Symptoms begin with recurrent pain and disability. These symptoms may subside when the cause (usually running) is stopped and returns when activity is resumed.
The bones have many blood vessels that help promote healing. With time, the body will regenerate and further promote healing. Practice caution to prevent a re-fracture.
A diet that contains bone-boosting foods like calcium and vitamin D helps with healing, as well as, using protective gear that can help prevent future fracture.