11865 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Femoral Fracture

    (Femur Fracture; Thigh Bone Fracture; Broken Leg)

    Definition

    A femoral fracture is a break in the thigh bone, which is called the femur. It runs from the hip to the knee. It is the longest and strongest bone in the body. It usually requires a great deal of force to break the femur.
    Femoral Fractures
    Femur Fracture
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    Causes

    A femoral fracture is usually caused by direct trauma to your femur. Trauma includes:
    • Falls
    • Blows
    • Collisions
    • Severe twists

    Risk Factors

    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a femoral fracture. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
    • Advancing age
    • Postmenopausal osteoporosis
    • Decreased muscle mass
    • Certain diseases that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis or cancer
    • Participation in certain contact sports, such as football

    Symptoms

    Symptoms include:
    • Immediate and severe pain
    • Swelling and bruising around the area of the break
    • Inability to walk and/or limited range of motion of the knee or hip
    • Deformity of the injured leg, such as shortening or abnormal twisting

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury happened. The injured area will also be examined. You may have x-rays to look for a break in the bone.

    Treatment

    Treatment will depend on the location and severity of your injury. Treatment involves:
    • Putting the pieces of the bone back in position, which may require anesthesia and/or surgery
    • Keeping the pieces together while the bone heals
    Devices that may be used to hold the bone in place while it heals include:
    • A cast (rarely used except in very young patients)
    • A metal plate with screws (requires surgery)
    • A rod down the middle of the bone (requires surgery)
    • Metal pins that cross the bone, with a frame on the outside of the leg that holds the pins and the fractured bone in place (requires either general or local anesthesia)
    Your doctor will order additional x-rays while the bone heals. This is to ensure that the bones have not shifted position.
    Once home, follow your doctor's discharge instructions.

    Exercises

    When your doctor decides you are ready, you will start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. You may be referred to a physical therapist to assist you. Do not return to sports until your leg is fully healed and your thigh muscle strength is back to normal.

    Healing Time

    A fractured femur is a serious injury that takes 3-6 months to heal.

    Prevention

    To help prevent femoral fractures:
    • Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the femur.
    • Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
    • Build strong muscles to prevent falls and to stay active and agile.
    • Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a car.
    • Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.
    • Femoral fracture has been linked to osteoporosis (thinned bones) in people over age 55. Be sure to find out if you have osteoporosis. Follow any treatment recommendations for this condition to help prevent further fractures.

    RESOURCES

    American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.aaos.org

    American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org

    Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org

    References

    Broken leg. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/broken-leg/DS00978. Updated July 2009. Accessed July 21, 2009.

    Cummings-Vaughn LA, Gammack JK. Falls, osteoporosis, and hip fractures. MedClin North Am. 2011 May;95(3):495-506.

    Osteoporosis and fracture: preventing falls and related fractures. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health%5FInfo/Bone/Osteoporosis/Fracture/prevent%5Ffalls%5Fff.asp. Updated August 2005. Accessed June 18, 2008.

    Thighbone (femur) fracture. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00364. Updated August 2007. Accessed June 18, 2008.

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