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Fracture care

When bones are broken, cracked or fractured, we’ll help you heal.

When a bone is broken, cracked, or fractured due to overuse or a sudden injury, get expert care to start healing. At Allina Health, our orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and other specialists have deep experience helping patients recover from all types of fractures. Whether your fracture happened from sports, exercise, an accident or a simple trip and fall, your care team will evaluate your situation, and with your input, recommend the best treatment plan to get you on the road to recovery.

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What is fracture care?

A fracture is a break/crack in the bone, and can happen in any bone of the body. Here are common types of fractures you might be diagnosed with or read in your x-ray report:

  • Nondisplaced fracture. This means the crack in the bone is not shifted, angled, or rotated and remains well aligned.
  • Hairline fracture. This is a nondisplaced small crack within a bone. One common type is called a stress fracture, which occurs due to repeated stress from exercise or overuse. 
  • Greenstick fracture. This is when a bone cracks but doesn’t break all the way through, like a piece of green wood. These often occur in children because their growing bones are more flexible than adult bones.
  • Comminuted fracture. In this type of fracture, the bone breaks into three or more fragments/pieces.
  • Open or compound fracture. When an injury causes the broken bone to pierce the skin.

Fracture care is good for treating

A fracture can happen to any bone in the body. Here are some common locations of fractures our team treats (listed in order from shoulder to fingers, pelvis to feet):

  • Broken collar bone (clavicle)
  • Broken shoulder (proximal humerus, glenoid, scapula, acromion)
  • Broken arm (humerus)
  • Broken elbow (distal humerus, olecranon, proximal ulna/radius, radial head/neck)
  • Broken forearm (radius/ulna)
  • Broken wrist (distal radius/ulna, carpal bones)
  • Broken fingers (metacarpal, phalanges)
  • Pelvic fracture (sacrum, ilium, pubic rami, acetabulum, Coccyx (tailbone))
  • Hip fracture (proximal femur, femoral head, femoral neck, intertrochanteric, subtrochanteric)
  • Thigh bone (femur)
  • Broken knee (distal femur, proximal tibia, tibial plateau)
  • Broken knee cap (patella)
  • Broken leg (tibia, fibula)
  • Broken ankle (distal tibia/fibula, syndesmosis)
  • Broken foot (heel, calcaneus, talus, navicular, cuneiform, metatarsal, phalangeal)

What to expect

Allina Health orthopedic specialists use surgical and non-surgical approaches to heal breaks and cracks in bones. Together, you and your care team will decide on the best treatment option for you. 

Non-surgical treatments

Most fractured bones can heal without surgery.

  • Cast or splint. Immobilization with a plaster or fiberglass cast minimizes movement and holds the bones and joints in place as they heal.
  • Functional Cast or Brace. Made of metal, plastic and fabrics, these braces allow limited movement of nearby joints as the fractured bones heal.
  • Therapy. Many injuries benefit from early therapy, range of motion, and therapist-directed exercises to prevent stiffness and enhance recovery. Your provider can work with you to find a physical therapy or occupational therapy clinic.
  • Medication. Your provider may prescribe medications to ease pain, reduce swelling and promote healing.

Surgical treatments

You and your orthopedic trauma team will discuss if surgery is your best option. You will hear an explanation about the procedure, the benefits of surgery compared to non-operative management, other alternatives, and your a roadmap to recovery.

  • Internal Fixation. During this operation, a surgeon uses pins, plates, screws and rods (intramedullary nails) to align and hold in place the broken (fractured) bones and joint structures. If necessary, the surgeon may recommend a joint replacement.
  • External Fixation. A surgeon uses metal pins and bars to temporarily hold the fractured bone straight. The pins are connected to a metal bar outside the skin, and this bar stabilizes the bones as they heal.
  • Other surgeries. Depending on the nature and severity of the trauma, your care team may include general surgeons, neurosurgeons, vascular surgeons and plastic surgeons.

Rehabilitation and therapy

Whether your treatment includes surgery or not, your orthopedic trauma care team will recommend a rehabilitation plan to help you heal and recover. This may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, orthotic bracing, range of motion, strengthening exercises or other methods to support your return to function. Our ultimate goal is restoring your quality of life back to what it was before your injury.

Reviewed by: Erik Lund, MD, orthopedic trauma surgeon

First published: 3/4/2021
Last reviewed: 3/4/2021