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How Does Bone Realignment Work for a Fracture?

How Does Bone Realignment Work for a Fracture?

Worldwide, nearly 200 million fractures happen every year, and data show fracture rates are increasing. In part, that may be due to the aging population tending to be more prone to falls or the same population staying active longer.

Whatever the reason, fractures can be serious injuries, and every fracture — even “minor” stress fractures caused by repetitive use — requires prompt medical evaluation. While some fractures are treated with simple casting, other fractures need more complex care to realign bones and help them heal properly. 

Thomas E. Powell, MD, and the Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine team have extensive experience treating all sorts of fractures, including more complicated breaks that involve several “pieces” and fractures where the bone ends are “out of place.” Here, Dr. Powell offers a brief overview of bone realignment methods.

Bone realignment for fracture healing

Bone healing is a complex process that’s not just about making the bone “look” normal again. It’s about restoring the bone as completely as possible, so it maintains its strength and support. Even a minor misalignment between two or more bone “parts” can result in weak areas that could lead to pain, mobility problems, and even future fractures. 

Some less serious fractures leave the ends of the bones in place. In these instances, the fracture heals well with simple casting that holds the pieces in place while they “knit” together again.

But when the ends of the bones are out of line, Dr. Powell and his team rely on special methods to realign them, trimming the ends as necessary to ensure a proper “fit.” The process of putting bones back in their normal positions is called reduction.

Realignment techniques

Reduction and fixation provide the support bones need to heal properly, so normal function is restored. Prompt treatment also helps prevent complications, like nerve or blood vessel damage or infections that can lead to additional complications.

Closed reduction vs. open reduction

Closed reduction means the bone ends can be gently coaxed back into position without using incisions to access the bones. Typically, you receive pain medication, sedation, or anesthesia before reduction (or “setting” the bone), then Dr. Powell uses a series of motions to reposition the bone ends. X-ray images confirm the ends are properly aligned before a cast is applied.

Open reduction is a surgical procedure that uses incisions to access the bone ends. Open reduction is used when closed reduction isn’t an option — for instance, for complex fractures, unstable fractures, and fractures involving a joint.

Next step: Fixation

Some serious fractures require more than reduction to stay stable and heal properly. Fixation is a fracture repair technique that uses surgical hardware, like screws, pins, rods, or wires, to hold bones in place while they heal. 

Internal fixation uses hardware placed during an open reduction, while external fixation uses hardware placed through your skin to stabilize bones repaired with closed reduction.

State-of-the-art orthopedic care

Our team specializes in orthopedic care focused on each person’s unique needs for optimal healing, restored mobility, and improved quality of life. To learn more about fracture care, call 205-606-5232 or request an appointment online with Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, today.

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