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Leg Fractures

By

Danielle Campagne

, MD, University of San Francisco - Fresno

Last full review/revision Jul 2019| Content last modified Jul 2019
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Leg fractures occur in one or more of the three long bones in the legs: the thighbone (femur), the shinbone (tibia), and the smaller bone in the lower leg (fibula).

(See also Overview of Fractures.)

Fractures of the tibia or fibula next to the foot are considered ankle fractures.

Thighbone (Femur) Fractures

Fractures may occur in the long middle part (shaft) of the thighbone, which is the largest bone in the body. The top of thighbone forms part of the hip joint. Thus, fractures in the top of the thighbone are considered hip fractures.

  • Thighbone fractures are usually caused by falls from a height, high-speed car crashes, or collision of a car with a pedestrian.

  • The thigh is swollen, the leg looks distorted, and people cannot stand or walk.

  • Although a fractured thighbone may be obvious, doctors take x-rays to confirm the diagnosis.

  • A splint or traction device is applied, followed by surgery to align and immobilize the fracture as soon as possible.

Fractures of the shaft usually result from great force because this bone is so strong.

Symptoms

When the shaft is broken, the thigh is swollen, and the leg looks distorted and often shorter. People cannot stand or walk. They may lose a substantial amount of blood, sometimes resulting in dangerously low blood pressure (shock).

Diagnosis

  • X-rays

Although fractures of the shaft may be obvious based on symptoms and the circumstances, doctors take x-rays to confirm the diagnosis.

Because these fractures usually result from great force, doctors also check for other injuries.

Treatment

  • A splint and traction

  • Surgery to realign the broken bones

A splint and usually traction with a traction splint or a special traction device are applied to immobilize the leg, usually before the person is transported to the hospital. Then, as soon as possible, surgery is done to align the broken pieces and hold them in place with metal rods or plates. This procedure is called open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF).

Soon after surgery, most people begin to walk with crutches.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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