Medical Vocabulary for Bone Fracture Treatments

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  • 0:01 Treatments for Bone Disorders
  • 0:35 Reduction
  • 1:46 External & Internal Fixation
  • 3:23 Immobilization & Osteoclasis
  • 4:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Betsy Chesnutt

Betsy teaches college physics, biology, and engineering and has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Bones and joints experience large forces every day, so bone fractures are extremely common. In this lesson, learn about the treatments that are used to help people heal after bones fracture.

Treatments for Bone Disorders

Your bones and joints are constantly moving, and they experience lots of large forces every day as you go about your normal life. Most of the time, your bones are able to withstand all of the forces that are applied to them without damage, but sometimes large forces can cause your bones to fracture. Because bone fractures are so common, there are many treatments that doctors can use to help patients who suffer from bone fractures. The type of treatment depends on the location and severity of the fracture.


Imagine for a moment that you are a doctor who treats bone and joint disorders, known as an orthopedist. One night, a new patient comes into the emergency room in an ambulance. His name is Bob, and he has just been in a serious car accident. As a result of the trauma he has just experienced, he has multiple serious bone fractures. What can we do to help him?

The main goal of treatment is to put Bob's fractured bones back in place and hold them there long enough for his body to heal them. The process of putting the pieces of a fractured bone back in place is called reduction, and this is the ultimate goal of all fracture treatments. The first decision you will have to make as Bob's doctor is whether to repair his bones using open or closed reduction.

In closed reduction, the ends of the broken bone are manipulated back into place without surgery. This is commonly performed when the fracture is simple and there aren't multiple bone fragments. In more complicated fractures, a surgical procedure to set the bone known as open reduction is performed.

External and Internal Fixation

Since Bob experienced pretty severe trauma in a car accident, it's likely he'll need open reduction to repair at least some of his many fractures. If Bob's bones have fractured into several pieces, it can be difficult to keep the pieces together long enough for healing to occur. To hold the bone fragments in place you can use external fixation, internal fixation, or osteorrhaphy.

In external fixation, pins or screws are inserted through the skin into the bone and held in place using a metal rod that is outside the body. External fixation is designed to be temporary, and the pins or screws can be easily removed in a few weeks after the bone has healed and there is no danger that the broken bone fragments will move out of place.

Sometimes, you, as the doctor, may decide that a more permanent fixation is required, and then metal plates and screws are used inside the body to hold the bone fragments together. This is known as internal fixation because the screws and plates are inside the body, as opposed to external fixation, where they are mostly outside, or external to the body. Internal fixation is usually permanent and the plates are never removed.

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