What is a Displaced Fracture and How is it Treated?

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When you break a bone in your foot or ankle, we say you’ve sustained a fracture. But there are several different types of fractures. If you have a non-displaced fracture, that means your bone has not moved and your break is clean. With this kind of injury, you’re likely looking at a minimum of four weeks with some form of immobilization: a cast, walking boot, crutches or something similar.

But there’s another type of fracture whose treatment is more complicated: a displaced fracture. Let’s take a closer look at what happens in your body when your fracture is displaced. Then we’ll explore the ways we can treat this type of injury.

What does it Mean if my Fracture is Displaced? Only X-rays can diagnose a foot fracture, but you can get those X-rays in my office and avoid a trip to the ER

When your fracture is displaced, it means that your bones have broken into two or more pieces. And, as a result of that break, the ends of your bones no longer line up with one another. Obviously, this makes it more difficult for your bones to heal. Without some kind of intervention, your bones could become misaligned, leading to many complication.

For that reason, if you have a displaced fracture, your injury will likely be treated with surgery. Unfortunately, this also means you will be facing a longer and more painful recovery period. That’s the bad news…but let’s look at some positive new developments in the diagnosing and treating complex injuries like displaced fractures!

How is a Displaced Fracture Diagnosed?

In order to determine the type of fracture you’re dealing with, you’ll need to get a toe, foot or ankle X-ray. But don’t start running to the ER just yet: in my Houston podiatrist office, we provide x-rays for suspected fractures. That can save you the hours-long wait times you’d encounter with a trip to the emergency room.

So, we’ve already given you one kernel of positivity to hold onto. Now let’s get to another one. As I said, most displaced fractures will need to be treated with surgery. In severe cases, your podiatrist will have to insert pins or screws into your bone to keep the pieces together while it heels. For many people, that also means a second surgery to remove the pins. Or, it means living the rest of your life with foreign materials in your body. But wait, don’t despair: new research is attempting to improve this treatment process.

Advances in Surgery for Displaced Fractures

Donations of femur bone could help improve the process of treating displaced fractures.When surgeons implant of metal screws in your bones to support the healing process, things can get messy. Your body will often try to reject the insertion of a foreign object and, since your body isn’t meant to keep metal inside it for long periods of time, you’ll likely need a second surgery to remove the implant even if your body isn’t rejecting the screw.

To combat some of these pesky problems, Austrian physician Klaus Pastl came up with a new invention—the Shark Screw, composed of the hard middle layer of other people’s femurs. The femur (thigh bone) is the longest, strongest and hardest bone in the body, so it’s a smart choice for the backbone (pun intended) of this new invention.

Already in use in several hospitals in Austria and Switzerland, these Shark Screws (made from donated medical material) never have to be removed; in fact, in about six weeks, the graft becomes incorporated into your own bone! At this moment, researchers are working on specialized screws that can be used for jaw and foot surgeries, which means your next foot fracture may be treated by a much less invasive surgical process! So, even if your foot is injured right now, I hope you’ll take heart in knowing that I stay on top of all the advancements available for fractures. And I offer them to my patients as soon as I feel they are safe and the best treatment option available!

 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.