Femoral Fracture
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Femoral Fracture

(Femur Fracture; Thigh Bone Fracture; Broken Leg)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

A femoral fracture is a break in the thigh bone, which is called the femur. The femur bone is also known as the thigh bone. It runs from the hip to the knee and is the longest and strongest bone in the body. It usually requires a great deal of force to break the femur.

Femoral Fractures

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Causes

A femoral fracture is usually caused by direct trauma to the bone. 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 leg, such as shortening or abnormal twisting of the injured leg

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. 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 severity of the 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'll 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 femur 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.

RESOURCES:

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

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
http://www.aossm.org/tabs/Index.aspx

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

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

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

References:

Femur injuries and fractures. eMedicine website. Available at: http://www.emedicine.com/sports/topic38.htm . Updated July 2006. Accessed June 18, 2008.

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_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/Fracture/preventing_falls.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.



Last reviewed October 2007 by Robert E. Leach, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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