Femoral Fracture: Everything You Must Know
What is a femoral fracture?
The femur bone is the biggest and most significant bone in our body. It is found in our legs and it mainly connects the hip and the knee. A broken femur is therefore a serious injury that calls for immediate medical care. The only possible treatments are surgery and physical therapy. And these fractures are very painful, so a lot of pain medication is also prescribed.
Since the bone is the biggest and heaviest in our body, a femoral fracture often takes months to heal. Since the bone is big, the impact for fracture also has to be great. So one usually suffers from this during a car crash, an accident or an assault. Otherwise, elderly people who have weaker bones and are prone to injuries face this problem.
Why is a broken femur a serious injury?
Since it is the biggest bone in your body, a femoral fracture will impact the quality of life of the person suffering from it. The possible consequences of a broken femur are:
- Loss of blood: If the fracture has pierced your skin by jutting outward you will end up losing a lot of blood based on the impact and severity of the injury.
- PTSD: The impact has to be big to cause a fracture in your thickest and heaviest bone. Thus upon fracture, the body will go into shock and the person might take time to process the excruciating pain that comes with it.
- Hip fracture: Those who are suffering from osteoporosis might also face another bigger problem due to a femoral fracture. If the fracture happens on the upper part of the femur supporting the hip bone then it might lead to a hip fracture too.
- Knee damage: If the fracture happens in the area just above the knee, then it might lead to knee damage and alignment issues, especially if the person has already had a knee replacement.
What are the types of Femoral Fractures?
When the injury happens it will show up the usual signs of pain, and swelling and in the worst cases the broken bone will pierce out of the skin of the leg. Rush to an orthopaedic, who will be able to physically examine the problem and suggest imaging tests to assess the extent of the injury.
Based on the results of X-rays and computed tomography scans (CT), the orthopaedic will diagnose the type of fracture and possible treatment options. The following types of fractures are usually diagnosed in a femoral fracture:
- Transverse fracture: A horizontal fault line, where the break goes straight across the femur bone.
- Spiral fracture: The break occurs at multiple points around the femur bone almost resembling a spiral.
- Oblique fracture: The break in the femur runs across your bone at an angle. This is a slant break which makes matters more delicate.
- Comminuted fracture: In this type of fracture your femur is impacted in multiple places and the fracture has led to three or more broken pieces.
- Open or compound fracture: Here the femur bone is broken into multiple pieces and the broken bone has pierced the skin to jut out of the leg.
How to treat a broken femur?
First and foremost the fracture must be cleaned and covered to avoid infection of any kind. Mostly, healthcare providers use a splint that will cover the whole leg. This splint goes up towards the hip. This is a temporary measure to help manage the pain, keep the bone in place and ensure the best outcomes.
Next, your healthcare provider will use traction to treat the fracture. These are broadly categorised into two types based on the placement of the traction:
- External Traction: This one is placed on the outside of the leg. These are mainly Weighted traction splints where a strap is placed on the ankle with weights attached to a frame and pulley. It will put very light pressure on your femur.
- Internal Traction: This type goes into the femur or tibia. This is called skeletal traction where surgery is performed to place a pin in the femur or tibia. These pins are attached to weights to keep the femur bone straight.
If the fracture has happened, surgery will be performed within 24 to 48 hours to ensure the timely recovery of your injury. In this case, there are two types of surgical options available:
- Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF).
- External fixation surgery.
How to prevent femoral neck fracture?
- Make sure to take medication and supplements to prevent bone loss.
- Make a steady and healthy intake of calcium-rich foods like milk, cottage cheese, yoghourt and broccoli.
- Stopping smoking as it leads to quicker bone decay.
- Avoid bingeing on alcohol as excess can also lead to problems for your bones.
- Walk mindfully on stairs and floors, use slip-resistant rugs and install grab bars in washrooms. Keep connecting corridors well-lit to avoid falls.
- Get your vision checked annually.
Can you still walk on a fractured femur?
A fractured femur will mean that the internal skeletal framework of your leg has been compromised. So it will be extremely difficult to put any kind of weight or pressure on your leg. The bipedal movement of our legs needs the entire leg to function properly. So at any point, while walking we transfer our body weight on either of our legs to move. Since the fracture does not allow for any weight to be put on it, it will be very difficult to walk in this case. Support will be necessary for any kind of movement.
Is a fractured femur serious?
A fractured femur bone is an indication that the body will undergo a lot of pain and trauma due to the sheer magnitude of impact necessary to cause the break. The quality of life of the patient will be compromised and mobility will be substantially restricted. Since the events that lead to such painful and severe fractures are big, it will leave you with a long and tedious recovery tenure.
Even after the femur heals a significant amount of physiotherapy and rehab is required to reinstate the natural mobility of the person.
How long does the pain last after a femoral fracture?
Recovery is very long for femoral fractures. It usually takes anywhere between 4 to 6 months. The length of your recovery also depends on the severity of your fracture, associated wounds and impact on the nerves and blood vessels around it. So even beyond the time when the trauma impact wears off, the pain sustains and involves a lot of pain medication to stabilise the condition. So the pain stays till the time the associated complications and the internal issues are completely healed.
Is a femoral neck fracture a hip fracture?
A femoral neck fracture is a type of intracapsular hip fracture. This is because the femoral neck connects the femoral shaft with the femoral head. The femoral head connects with the acetabulum to form the hip joint. Therefore the conjunctional location of the bones makes the femoral neck prone to fracture. If the upper end of the femur bone has fracture this will therefore lead to a hip fracture, especially in patients with vitamin D and calcium deficiency.