Unless a fracture breaks the skin, it may be difficult to know whether a bone is broken or not, and whether an ER visit is necessary. There are some very clear warning signs of broken bones, but in some cases, it’s impossible to tell if you have a fracture. Therefore, it’s important to know when to seek medical care.
Symptoms of broken bones
Broken bones can be incredibly painful, even if they are simple closed fractures, and it can be almost impossible to move the injured limb. If you have a broken bone, the injured area will likely become very swollen, tender, and may show signs of bruising almost immediately.
Deformity is one of the best indicators of a fracture. When the leg or arm bends in areas it’s not supposed to bend, it’s a good sign that there’s a bone out of place. Oblique fractures (where the bone breaks diagonally) and comminuted fractures (where the bone breaks or shatters into more than two fragments) frequently cause a limb to look out of place.
If you think that a limb is broken, it is best to visit the ER. It could be a sprain or a strain that still needs urgent medical attention, and if you’re in a great deal of pain the ER can administer appropriate medication to manage this.
First aid for broken bones
Advice from Harvard Medical School states that in most cases, there is no need to move or straighten a broken bone. Splinting may be necessary most especially if the patient will be moved without ambulance assistance. A splint can be created by carefully wrapping a heavy piece of clothing, a newspaper or a magazine around the broken limb before tying it in place with pieces of cloth.
If a fractured limb is severely deformed or the area beyond the break is pale, blue, and cold, it could be that the injury has blocked the limb’s blood supply. In this case, it is advised to gently pull on the length of the limb to straighten it before splinting.
When to go to ER
If you suspect a bone has been broken, it is essential that you visit the ER immediately. In order to give a broken bone the best chance of healing, it must be assessed and treated by a doctor – with a cast or brace, or through surgery for more complex and severe breaks.
Depending on the severity of the broken bone, patients may have to wait hours to seek treatment in a busy hospital ER. At Physicians Premier’s freestanding ER in New Braunfels, patients can access high-quality treatment much faster, and in a more relaxed, calm environment than a hospital emergency room.
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