The longest, strongest, and heaviest bone in the human body, the femur, breaks due to many causes explained in this article. Due to the size and strength of the femur, it typically takes a significant amount of force or damage to cause a fracture. Falls and auto accidents are two common mishaps that cause femur fractures. Femur fractures brought on by low-energy trauma point to an underlying bone disorder. A child's shattered femur could be an indicator of maltreatment.
Severe pain, bleeding, leg deformity, tissue swelling, and the inability to move your leg are all signs of a broken femur. Significant bleeding can result in hypovolemic shock. Femur fractures are frequently linked to stressful events that could cause injury to other body parts.
Femur fracture treatment involves repositioning the shattered bone fragments such that they are in their normal anatomical location. The precise treatment strategies are dependent on the circumstances of each case. Your physiotherapist should consider the extent and kind of fracture and the care of any associated injuries. Options for therapy may include both surgical and nonsurgical procedures.
At Suarez Physical Therapy, we offer physiotherapy sessions to patients with fractured femurs. If you or your loved one suffers from a fractured femur and seeking treatment in Las Vegas, contact our clinic for help.
Overview of Femur Fracture
What is a Femur?
The femur, often known as the thigh bone or upper leg, is one of your body's longest and toughest bones. The femur is the bone that connects your pelvic area to your primary ankle bone, or tibia at the knee joint, via the hip joint. Each of your legs contains a femur. The femur supports the body when standing up straight or walking. A broken or fractured femur may cause discomfort, poor recovery, and other practical and medical issues.
What is a Fractured Femur?
A femur fracture is a break or crushing injury to the femur, also known as a thigh bone fracture. Three places on the femur that could fracture, including:
- Femoral neck fractures are far more common in the elderly and occur close to the pelvis.
- Femoral shaft and supracondylar fractures are brought on by trauma and most frequently affect teenagers and young adults.
- Partial-thickness fractures of the femoral neck are known as femoral stress fractures.
People who engage in physical exercise suffer from these chronic injuries. These might develop into fractures ranging in size from minor chips to complete breaks that split the bone.
Symptoms of a Broken Femur
When the femur, or thighbone, is broken, it often results in debilitating pain that may make it difficult to walk or put weight on the affected leg. Other common symptoms of a broken femur include:
- Swelling and bruising around the injury site.
- Deformity of the affected leg.
- Inability to move the affected leg.
- Intense pain when trying to move the affected leg.
- Numbness or tingling in the affected leg.
Types of Femoral Shaft Fractures
There are many types of femoral shaft fractures, each requiring a different treatment approach. Here is a brief overview of the most common femoral shaft fracture types:
- Transverse fractures: These fractures occur when the bone is broken in a straight line across the shaft. Treatment typically involves placing a rod or pin in the bone to stabilize it during healing.
- Oblique fractures: The bone is broken in an angled line across the shaft. Treatment is similar to that of transverse fractures.
- Comminuted fractures: These fractures occur when the bone is broken into multiple pieces. Treatment typically involves surgically placing screws and plates in the bone to stabilize it during healing. Sometimes, a metal rod may also be placed in the bone.
- Impacted fractures: These fractures occur when one end of the bone is driven into the other, usually due to high-impact trauma. Treatment is similar to that of comminuted fractures.
- Incomplete fractures: These fractures are characterized by a break in the bone that does not completely disrupt the structure of the femur. They typically occur near the knee joint and can be treated with simple methods like immobilization or surgery.
- Complete fractures: In contrast to stable fractures, unstable fractures involve a complete or partial disruption of the bone structure. They often occur near the hip joint and can be serious injuries requiring surgery and other aggressive treatment methods.
Causes of Femur Fracture
Femoral shaft fractures are most commonly caused by high-impact trauma, such as car accidents, falls from a height, or direct blows to the thigh. The majority of these fractures occur in young men. Other causes of femoral shaft fractures include:
- Osteoporosis: This condition leads to fragile bones that are more likely to break.
- Cancer: Bone cancer can weaken the bones and make them more susceptible to fracture.
- Infection: A bone infection can also weaken the bones and make them more likely to break.
- Congenital disabilities: Some congenital disabilities can cause the femur to be weaker and more prone to fracture.
Risk Factors Associated With Femoral Fractures
There are many risk factors associated with femoral shaft fractures. Some of the more common ones include:
- Age: As you age, your bones become more brittle and are more likely to fracture.
- Trauma: Any kind of impact or force on the femur can cause a fracture, whether it is from a car accident, a fall, or a direct blow.
- Specific health issues: Diseases like cancer and diabetes can increase the risk of fractures.
- Medications: Certain drugs, such as steroids, can weaken bones and make them more prone to fractures.
- Gender: Femoral shaft fractures are more common in men than women.
If you have any risk factors, it is important to be extra cautious and take steps to protect your femur from injury.
Complications From Femoral Shaft Fractures
Several potential complications can occur when a femur is broken. These include:
- Infections: If the fracture is open on the outside, there is a risk of infection. This can lead to additional surgery and prolonged recovery.
- Blood clots: A blood clot can form in the leg or pelvis, which can be dangerous if it travels to the lungs causing pulmonary embolism. Blood clots and infections could occur after undergoing surgery too.
- Joint damage: The fracture could damage the knee or hip joint, which could require additional surgery to repair.
- Nerve damage: The nerves around the fracture site can be damaged, leading to numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg.
- Peripheral damage: The leg's muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves could also be damaged after a femur fracture.
- Improper setting: The risk is that one leg will grow shorter than the other and eventually cause hip or knee pain if the femur is not properly positioned. Femur bone misalignment may also cause pain.
- You could develop acute compartment syndrome. This painful ailment develops when the pressure inside the muscles reaches dangerous heights. Blood flow may be reduced due to this pressure, which keeps neuron and muscle cells from receiving oxygen and nutrients.
If the stress is not immediately released, irreversible incapacity may occur. A surgical emergency could be required, and your surgeon will create incisions in your skin and muscle covers to release the pressure during the surgery.
- Open fractures expose your bone vulnerable to the environment outside. Even after thorough surgical cleansing of the bone and muscle, an infection might still develop in the bone.
Doctor Examination and Diagnosis
After you arrive at the hospital or doctor’s office, the doctor will ask about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. They will also perform a physical examination, which involves feeling along your thigh and leg for tenderness or deformity and moving your leg around to check for a range of motion and alignment. The doctor may order imaging tests to help diagnose a femur fracture. These may include:
- X-rays. These are low-energy radiation beams that could create images of bones on film. X-rays are often the first test used to diagnose a bone fracture.
- CT scans: This test uses special x-ray equipment and computer technology to create cross-sectional images of your femur. A CT scan can sometimes show fractures that do not appear on regular x-rays.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This test uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding your femur.
Treatment of a Femur Fracture
Treatment for a fractured or broken femur may vary depending on where the fracture is located. This section discusses determining the location of a femur fracture, treatment options, and when to seek medical attention.
There are several ways to treat a femur fracture; the best option depends on the individual case. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the fracture. The type of surgery will depend on the fracture's severity and the break's location.
Some common types of surgeries used to treat femur fractures include:
- Intramedullary nailing. Intramedullary nailing is a procedure where a metal rod is inserted into the marrow cavity of the bone to stabilize the fracture.
- External fixation. External fixation is a procedure where metal rods are placed outside the body and attached to the bone with screws or pins to hold it in place while it heals.
- Hip replacement. Hip replacement is a more invasive surgery where the damaged hip joint is replaced with an artificial one.
Recovery from surgery can take several weeks or months. It is important to follow your doctor's orders and attend all scheduled follow-up appointments during this time. Physical therapy may also be necessary to help regain strength and mobility in the affected leg.
Many different types of medication can be used to treat a femur fracture. The most common type of medication is pain medication. This can be either over-the-counter or prescription strength. Other types of medication that may be used include anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxers, and blood thinners.
Weighted Traction Splints
Weighted traction splints are a type of device used to treat femur fractures. This type of splint applies a force to the bone greater than the weight of the person wearing it. This helps to align the bone so that it can heal properly. Weighted traction splints are made from metal or plastic and adjustable to be worn for different lengths of time.
The Casting Of The Affected Limb
The doctor will first determine the best way to set the bone and choose the appropriate size and type of cast. The cast is applied while the patient is lying down. The limb is positioned in the desired position, and then padding is placed around it. The doctor will then wrap the plaster or fiberglass around the limb, starting at the toes or fingers and working up. Once the entire limb is wrapped, the doctor will smooth out any bumps and ensure that the cast is not too tight or loose.
There are two main types of traction: static and dynamic. Static traction is when the force is applied to the bone without movement. The weight of the patient's body, along with gravity, pulls on the bone to help align it. Dynamic traction is when a machine is used to apply a force on the bone while it is being moved. This type of traction is often used for patients with multiple fractures or fractures that don't appear to heal correctly with static traction alone.
The goal of traction is to realign the bones so they can heal in the correct position. It can also help relieve pain and decrease swelling. Traction can be uncomfortable, but most patients are given medication to help manage any pain they experience.
Prevention of Femur Fracture
Unfortunately, circumstances that could lead to breaking your femur are probably beyond your control. Femurs can break in accidents, slips, falls, or gunshot wounds.
You might be able to reduce your risk of femur fracture by:
- Driving safely and utilizing the proper restraints.
- Better nutrition.
- Taking precautions in your home to reduce the possibility of slips and falls.
- Whether playing contact or severe sports, taking the necessary safeguards.
- Osteoporosis treatment.
People 65 years of age or older who are more likely to sustain injuries from falls, such as falling while standing, might avoid falling by taking certain precautions.
Ask your healthcare physician to assess your risk of falling if you are 65 years of age or older or taking any medications that might cause you to feel tired or lightheaded. They will suggest actions you can take to lessen that danger. They might advise activities, for instance, that will strengthen your legs and enhance your balance.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Femur Fractures
What Is External Fixation Surgery To Treat A Broken Femur?
Inserting metal bolts into your femur during surgery, known as external fixation, your broken femur stabilized. Your femur's exterior has a frame to which the bolts are fastened. If you require ORIF but cannot have the procedure immediately, your surgeon may perform this surgery.
What are the Tips for Self-Care After Broken Femur Surgery?
During the first two weeks, you need assistance around your home. Your healthcare professional can assist you in locating qualified in-home care. Your shattered femur should be raised above your heart level as you lie flat on your back. By doing so, you can prevent swelling around your broken femur.
You probably want to walk about your house independently as you heal. The amount of weight you could place on your leg should be discussed with your physiotherapist. You might need a walker, cane, or crutches to go around. You'll get assistance from your physical therapist in using them.
Why Does It Take Long for a Broken Femur to Recover?
A normal healing process for broken femurs can take between three and six months. Below is a breakdown of the healing timelines:
Days 1 through 7: When your femur breaks, the blood arteries that supply your femur with blood also break. At the location of your fracture, those ruptured blood vessels cause blood clotting or a hematoma. Your femur's temporary frame, created by the blood clot, aids in healing. When you suffer an injury, your immunity responds by activating cells that help repair the wound by removing damaged tissue.
Days 8 through 15: Your body starts to link the shattered femur portions together with a network of cartilage. Additionally, your body begins to form new, braided bones.
Days 16 through 28: You grow new bone and blood vessels while the cartilage network solidifies. Your bone begins to recreate itself as this continues, eventually returning to its original state as normal bone. The procedure may take months or even years.
Femur fractures are serious and could take a long time to heal. A broken femur could significantly affect your life, but only temporarily. Surgical treatment is often successful, and many patients recover fully from a broken femur. Many Patients who have shattered femur resume their normal lives.
You might think that your recovery will not be successful. You could start to experience stress and annoyance. Even worse, you might decide to try to hasten the healing process and have a setback. To help you have a successful recovery, visit an experienced physical therapist.
At Suarez Physical Therapy, we have highly skilled physiotherapists who will ensure that you get therapy tailored to your needs and results in the best possible outcome if you seek treatment in Las Vegas, Nevada. Contact us at 702-368-6778 to schedule a consultation to discuss how we can assist you.