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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Broken Bones


These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Problems After a Broken Ulna [posted 11/5/98]
Question: I chipped my ulna bone two years ago. Since then I've been told I had "calcification". What is calcification of the cartlidge, and could this have pinched the ulnar nerve as a result of the break? I just had the nerve transfer done.

Answer: Well, offhand this doesn't make sense. Cartiledge can be damaged and I suspect this is what they are refereing to. Damage to cartiledge is usually permanent.

What Would Cause Pain Years After a Compound Fracture [posted 10/28/98]
Question: In 1995 I had a grade 2 compound fracture left tibia, an internal fixator was used. 32 months later I have nonunion of the tib, and it's always very painful. What may be wrong.

Answer: Fracture, non-alignment, continued stress, metabolic bone disease. A long list, discuss this with your doctor or get a second opinion.

Possible to Miss Something After Cast is Removed? [posted 10/15/98]
Question: My son age 5yrs broke his tibia(sprial fracture) 5 weeks ago The Dr. took the cast off after 4 weeks. He insists my son can walk but after a week of working with him and he watching his brothers play I don't think he can. He crys that his foot hurts and the back of his leg. Could Doc have missed something?

Answer: Sure, take him again for an evaluation.

Compression Fracture [posted 8/7/98]
Question: I recently fell off a roof and, as a result, I have about a 20% compression fracture of my T9 vertebrate. I have also got a fractured radius. My orthopedic doctor said my fracture is stable. I want to know whether that type of (compression) fracture is usually recoupable. Also, does that type of fracture (compression) cause long term problems often? My pain varies with activity ( I always wear my back brace when up).

Answer: Usually not operable. They usually heal, about 20% of the time with residual pain. Don't push weight bearing until the fracture has healed - 6 weeks or so.

Unhealing Tibia Fracture [posted 8/6/98]
Question: I have been wearing a cast for 11 weeks now and have shown no evidence of healing. I have recently been administering the ultrasonic treatment to my leg twice a day for 20 minutes. Is there a time limit that I can look towards to tell me that healing will not take place and surgery will be required?

Answer: Non-healing fractures are fairly uncommon, but have in common poor alignment, infections, metabolic problems as underlying problems. Most fractures show some improvement in 4 weeks and generally are healed by 6-8 weeks.

Fractured Skull and Hematoma [posted 8/4/98]
Question: My son fractured his skull and subsequently developed a hematoma (not subdural). How long should the fluid take to reabsorb?

Answer: 6-8 weeks.

Broken 4th Metacarpal in Hand [posted 7/30/98]
Question: I was wondering if there is anything I could take that would speed the recovery of the bone in my hand, such as vitamins? I am a very active person and I just hate not having the use of both hands.

Answer: Probably not. However, inadequate Vitamin D levels will impair healing and extra Vitamin C and Zinc are touted by some.

Fractured or Bruised Ribs [posted 7/23/98]
Question: I fell on some ice, and hit my side on a step. I have some pain in my lower right side and tenderness, but no swelling or "black and blue" marks. I can breath deeply, but any type of pressure, like sneezing, causes pain in that area. I assume I have bruised/fractured a rib. How long will it take to feel better? Any warning signs that I should get to a doctor right away?

Answer: Increasing shortness of breath would constitute a reason to see your physician. The rib whether broken or sprained will require 6-8 weeks to heal if you do not re-re-injure it.

Break Identification
Question: When a person hurts their finger how can you tell if it is broken or just jammed?

Answer: If the bone is not obviously fractured it would need an x-ray.

Non-Union Fracture
Question: My wife was in a serious accident on March 30, 1997. The Non-Union fracture - about 5/8" - has not healed. She does not smoke or have diabetes. Bone graft has been suggested (Plan 2). I have read about the "low intensity ultra-sound" bone stimulators being used in several medical centers. I would like opinions on this.

Answer: Like you I have only read them-not seen them at work. I would recommend that you find recent research articles in a local medical library(most hospital librarians could find these for you) and contact the physician/researcher performing the research. This is a little new for any effective opinion from me.

Time-Frame For Healing
Question: How do you heel a bone faster than normal?

Answer: There has been some research with small electrical currents through the bone to aid healing. Current thought is mixed on the effectiveness of this technique. There is a lot of genetic work on using growth hormone locally as well as local hormones produced by the body. Currently, in research phase only.
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