Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link

Leg Fractures

By

Danielle Campagne

, MD, University of California, San Francisco

Last full review/revision Apr 2021| Content last modified Apr 2021
Click here for the Professional Version

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).

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 Hip Fractures Hip fractures may occur in the round upper end (head) of the thighbone, in the narrow part of the thighbone just below the head (neck), or in the bumps in the broader area just below the neck... read more .

  • 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 of Femur Fractures

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 Shock Shock is a life-threatening condition in which blood flow to the organs is low, decreasing delivery of oxygen and thus causing organ damage and sometimes death. Blood pressure is usually low... read more ).

Diagnosis of Femur Fractures

  • 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 of Femur Fractures

  • 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 A fracture is a crack or break in a bone. Most fractures result from force applied to a bone. Fractures usually result from injuries or overuse. The injured part hurts (especially when it is... read more (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
Others also read

Test your knowledge

HIp Fractures
The hip joint consists of several areas: the pelvis, then the round upper end (head) of the thighbone (femur), then the area below the head of the femur (also called the neck of the femur), and then two large bumps beneath the neck of the femur (also called trochanters). Most hip fractures occur in which of the following areas of the hip? 
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
TOP