Broken Bones: When to go to hospital

Broken bones or bone fractures can happen a number of different ways and for a number of different reasons. The question many people these days are asking is, “ Do I need to go to the Emergency Room for a bone fracture or can my local Urgent Care take care it?” The answer is simple enough, if you have the right information. However, if you can visibly see the bone fracture or your limbs look deformed in anyway, it is always the best course of action to call 000 right away so that they can take you to the nearest emergency room. 

Below we will discuss the different kinds of bone fractures and how they can happen, how to treat them and whether they require emergency attention or if a visit to the Urgent Care is a more viable option. Knowing the difference could save you valuable time and money in the future.

Bone Fractures That Need Emergency Care

You may be wondering exactly what a fracture is and how they can occur in our seemingly resilient bodies. defines bone fractures as: A break in bone or cartilage. Although usually a result of trauma, a fracture can be the result of an acquired disease of bone, such as osteoporosis, or of abnormal formation of bone in a congenital disease of bone, such as osteogenesis imperfecta (‘brittle bone disease’). Fractures are classified according to their character and location. 

Since there are many different types of fractures and reasons for said fractures, the care and treatment for them can vary. All fractures fall into two categories, regardless of cause, those are:

  • Compound – Compound Fractures are fractures that penetrate the skin, exposing the bone and deep tissues. These are also referred to as open fractures.
  • Simple – Fractures that are classified in this category include all fractures that do not penetrate the skin, thus remaining inside the body. (These types of fractures are sometimes difficult to diagnose without an X-ray or CT Scan).

Within these two categories, many different fractures can occur, those include:

  • Transverse Fractures – These fractures form to the long axis of a bone resulting from force applied from the right angle of the bone.
  • Spiral Fractures – Are the result of extreme twisting exerted onto the bone.
  • Oblique Fractures – When force is applied at any other angle than a right angle, Oblique Fractures occur. This results in a slanted fracture.
  • Greenstick Fractures – These types of fractures are only found in children because their bones are much more flexible than adult bones. Since they are so flexible, Greenstick Fractures only partially break a bone or just occur on one side of the bone.
  • Comminuted Fractures – When the bone fracture occurs in many different places in the bone.
  • Avulsion Fractures – These types of fractures can occur when extreme force is applied to a tendon or ligament. Avulsion Fractures are when small piece of bone is actually torn from the rest of the bone.

Emergency Room Treatment For Broken Bones 

Depending on the severity of the bone fracture will determine the course of action your ER physician takes. Treatment can also vary between different Emergency Rooms. However, in all Emergency Room situations you will first be given a thorough assessment, so the doctor can find out what type of fracture you have. Possible treatment options include:

  • Bone Alignment(Reduction) – If the bone has been moved out of alignment as a result of the fracture, your doctor may need to “set” the bone back into place in order for proper healing to take place.
  • Splints – Less severe fractures can be splinted, and heal on their own without need for surgery of any kind.
  • Casts – Some broken bones will require casts which usually take about six to eight weeks to heal.
  • Surgery – If a cast just won’t cut it. Surgery may be required to heal broken bones. Usually during surgery your surgeon will use metal screws, rods, plates, or pins to hold the bone in place.
  • Pain Medication – Some broken bones, like ribs and the tailbone just need time to heal on their own. For these cases patients are given pain medication as need to deal with the discomfort. 

Most all ER physicians will suggest or require physical therapy to build up strength, so another fracture is less likely to occur.

I’m Not Sure It’s Broken

 Until you see a medical professional you will not know for certain that your bone is broken, unless of course, you have a compound fracture and can see the bone and deep tissue penetrating the skin. That’s a pretty obvious sign to get to the Emergency Room as fast as possible. For simple fractures, knowing if the bone really is “broken” is a little more difficult. Some common symptoms for bone fractures include:

  • Heavy Bleeding at the site of the injury
  • Numbness in the injured or surrounding area
  • A bluish color or swelling
  • A visible deformity at the injury site
  • Bone protruding through the skin (compound fracture)

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms it is important to go to an emergency room as soon as you can or call 000, if you do not have a ride. Since any physican at an Urgent Care center will call an ambulance to take you to the ER if you come in with any of these symptoms, going there in the first place will be a waste of time and money for you.

When Not To Go To The Emergency Room

If you think you may have fractured a bone, but aren’t experiencing any of the symptoms usually associated with bone fractures you may want to go to an Urgent Care provider and have them check your injury. However, many Urgent Care centers are not able to provide you with an X-Ray or CT Scan to make sure there is or is not a bone fracture. Many patients who experience severe sprains or pulled muscles, also experience extreme pain and may think that the bone is broken. Urgent Care physicians are still able to provide braces, boots, or other forms of support for injured bones.

Ask A Professional

Still not sure when to see an Emergency Room doctor? Not a problem. Simple fractures can be hard to identify and you may need a second opinion. At the Fracture Clinic we have a staff of highly qualified nurses and doctors that treat broken bones everyday. We will be able to answer any and all of the questions you may have about fractured bones. We want to make sure you don’t waste any time or money by going to wrong treatment facility. Don’t wait until it’s too late, call us today, we are your local Fracture specialists.