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A fracture usually results from traumatic injury to bones causing the continuity of bone tissues or bony cartilage to be disrupted or broken. Fracture classifications include simple, compound, incomplete and complete. Simple fractures (more recently called "closed") are not obvious as the skin has not been ruptured and remains intact. Compound fractures (now commonly called "open") break the skin, exposing bone and causing additional soft tissue injury and possible infection. A single fracture means that one fracture only has occurred and multiple fractures refer to more than one fracture occurring in the same bone. Fractures are termed complete if the break is completely through the bone and described as incomplete or "greenstick" if the fracture occurs partly across a bone shaft. This latter type of fracture is often the result of bending or crushing forces applied to a bone.

Fractures are also named according to the specific part of the bone involved and the nature of the break. Identification of a fracture line can further classify fractures. Types include linear, oblique, transverse, longitudinal, and spiral fractures. Fractures can be further subdivided by the positions of bony fragments and are described as comminuted, non-displaced, impacted, overriding, angulated, displaced, avulsed, and segmental. Additionally, an injury may be classified as a fracture-dislocation when a fracture involves the bony structures of any joint with associated dislocation of the same joint.

Fractures line identification

Linear fractures have a break that runs parallel to the bone's main axis or in the direction of the bone's shaft. For example, a linear fracture of the arm bone could extend the entire length of the bone. Oblique and transverse fractures differ in that an oblique fracture crosses a bone at approximately a 45° angle to the bone's axis. In contrast, a transverse fracture crosses a bone's axis at a 90° angle. A longitudinal fracture is similar to a linear fracture. Its fracture line extends along the shaft but is more irregular in shape and does not run parallel to the bone's axis. Spiral fractures are described as crossing a bone at an oblique angle, creating a spiral pattern. This break usually occurs in the long bones of the body such as the upper arm bone (humerus) or the thigh bone (femur).

Bony fragment position identification

Comminuted fractures have two or more fragments broken into small pieces, in addition to the upper and lower halves of a fractured bone. Fragments of bone that maintain their normal alignment following a fracture are described as being non-displaced. An impacted fracture is characterized as a bone fragment forced into or onto another fragment resulting from a compressive force. Overriding is a term used to describe bony fragments that overlap and shorten the total length of a bone. Angulated fragments result in pieces of bone being at angles to each other. A displaced bony fragment occurs from disruption of normal bone alignment with deformity of these segments separate from one another. An avulsed fragment occurs when bone fragments are pulled from their normal position by forceful muscle contractions or resistance from ligaments. Segmental fragmented positioning occurs if fractures in two adjacent areas occur, leaving an isolated central segment. An example of segmental alignment is when the arm bone fractures in two separate places, with displacement of the middle section of bone.

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