Emergency Fracture Care
Virginia Mason Memorial's Emergency Department provide expert emergency care for broken bones or other major orthopedic injuries. In addition to experienced emergency physicians, there is a board certified orthopedic surgeon always available. Whether you've broken your finger, arm or your hip, our team of physicians, nurses and other staff members are prepared to provide you with early diagnosis and treatment for a multitude of fracture injuries. Our team is dedicated available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
How do I know if it's broken?
Fractured means broken. Whether you have a complete or a partial fracture, you have a broken bone. The classic signs of a fracture are pain, swelling, and deformity. However, unless you have an "open" fracture (a break where bone fragments are sticking out through the skin) it may be harder to tell.
Look for bruising and the inability to put weight on or move the injured area. If you suspect you have a fractured bone, seek emergency medical care immediately.
What to expect when you have a fracture:
Your doctor and hospital staff will likely do the following:
- Remove clothing from the injured area
- Perform a physical exam
- Perform an x-ray
- As necessary, apply a splint
- Manage pain
- If you have a fracture that is open (the bone is sticking out from the skin) you may be given antibiotics to prevent infection
In some cases, orthopedic specialists may be contacted to provide additional services.
- Re-aligning the bone:
- If the bone has shifted, your doctor may need to re-align the bone. You will receive a sedative and medication to numb the area while the doctor realigns the bone. In some cases, you may have to have general anesthesia (you will be asleep) while the surgeon re-aligns the bone
- In some cases the surgeon may need to use pins and/or screws to re-align the bone. If this is the case, you will be given general anesthesia during the procedure
- After the bone is re-aligned, another x-ray will be taken to ensure the bone is in the right position
- When you go home:
- If you have fractured an extremity (arm or leg), it is important to keep the extremity elevated above the level of your heart
- Take medications as prescribed by your doctor. Do not take anti-inflammatory medications (Ibuprofen, Motrin, etc.) unless prescribed by your doctor
- Ensure that you continue to move your uninjured joints to keep them from getting stiff
- If you have fractured your leg, make sure to ask your doctor how much weight you may place on your leg
- Practice good nutrition, as this will assist in bone healing.
- Do not smoke. This will inhibit bone healing
- If you have a cast, ensure that you care for the cast carefully according to these guidelines
- Follow all other instructions given to you by your doctor
- The time to heal a fracture varies by the size of the fracture, the size of the bone, nutrition, age, and many other factors, although small bones typically heal in 3-6 weeks, and longer bones will take more time.
- Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy when it is safe to do so to help you regain normal range of motion and function