Diagnosis and Treatment of Femur Shaft Fractures in Wake County

What is a Femur Shaft Fracture?

Because the femur is the longest and strongest bone in the human body, it takes a lot of pressure to break. As a result, femur shaft fractures most often occur due to high-energy collisions in contact sports, car accidents, and serious falls. Femur shaft fractures can be life-threatening, and individuals should seek treatment immediately. In addition to necessary surgery, this injury typically requires physical therapy to heal. In most cases, one can expect a recovery time of between three and six months. At Raleigh Orthopaedic, our specialists are skilled and experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of orthopedic injuries, including femur shaft fractures. Learn more below.

What Causes Femur Shaft Fractures?

Femur fractures primarily result from high-impact collisions like falling from great heights or vehicle accidents. However, high-intensity sporting activities that exhibit extreme force on the body, like rugby or ice hockey, can also result in the breakage of this bone. A lesser-impact movement, such as falling, can also cause a femur shaft fracture, specifically for elderly people with osteoporosis.

Pelvis Fractures Risk Factors

Certain factors may make you more susceptible to getting a femur shaft fracture. They include:

  • Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis is a common condition among elderly individuals. It involves the loss of bone density, which makes it easier for bones to break, even without a lot of force.
  • Lack of Physical Activity – Physical activity strengthens muscles and bones. Consequently, avoiding exercise and regular activity weakens the femur, increasing its chances of breaking.

Symptoms of a Femur Shaft Fracture

A femur fracture causes unbearable pain, and you most likely won’t be able to walk afterward. If you experience symptoms of a femur shaft fracture, you should seek medical attention right away. Femur shaft fracture symptoms can include:

  • Immediate, severe pain
  • Bruised or swollen thigh
  • Trouble moving the leg
  • Femur bone punching against the skin
  • Shorter injured leg
  • Inability to walk
  • Part of the femur cutting through the skin

How are Femur Shaft Fractures Diagnosed?

Orthopedic specialists diagnose femur shaft fractures by observing the injured leg using several methods. For example, they may rely on X-rays, MRI, or CT scans to determine the extent of the injury. These approaches can also help identify the type of fracture that has occurred. Consequently, there are several types of femur shaft fractures: transverse, spiral, oblique, comminuted, and open or compound. Your doctor will let you know what type of fracture you have sustained, along with the best next steps for your treatment and recovery.

Treatment Options for Femur Shaft Fractures

Nonsurgical Treatment

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There are two types of treatment for femur shaft fractures, nonsurgical and surgical. In terms of nonsurgical treatment (primarily used on children), a cast is placed over the injured area to maintain bone alignment during healing. However, this method is exclusively used for young children, as most femur shaft fractures require surgery to heal.

Surgical Treatment Options

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Surgical treatment for femur shaft fractures often happens within 24 to 48 hours of the incident. Delayed treatment should only occur when stabilizing other life-threatening injuries you may have suffered. Before surgery, individuals receive antibiotics to prevent infections in any open injuries. After cleaning any open wounds, the injured leg is placed in traction or a long leg splint to keep the bones aligned and relieve pain. Femur shaft fracture surgeries include: 

External Fixation
External fixations keep the fractured bones together. This procedure involves placing screws or metal pins above and below the broken area, then attaching them to a bar outside the leg. External fixations are easy and quick to apply. They are more common when the patient isn’t ready for a full surgical procedure or if they have suffered other serious injuries. An external fixator is temporary and comes off when the patient is ready for surgery. Although rare, it may be left until the fracture heals if it’s indispensable.

Intramedullary Nailing
Intramedullary nailing is the most common treatment method for femur shaft fractures. During this procedure, a surgeon inserts a specialized metal rod into the canal at the knee or hip. This piece helps to keep the fracture in the proper position. Next, they place screws and nails below and above the fracture to keep the leg aligned correctly as the bones recover. Intramedullary nails are titanium-based and come in various sizes to fit all fractures and patients.

Screws and Plates
Intramedullary nailing isn’t practical if the fracture extends into the knee joints or hip. Therefore, plates and screws are more suitable to keep the leg aligned when this injury occurs. Bone fragments are first placed in their natural position and attached with plates and screws to the bone’s outer surface.

Femur Shaft Fracture Recovery Time

Femur fracture recovery times range between three to six months. Some injuries may take longer to heal if they are open, the bones break into many pieces, or the patient’s health isn’t optimal. For example, someone who smokes may face a longer recovery time. Performing the proper exercises is crucial to a quick recovery. Physical therapy for femur shaft fractures includes straight leg raises, bridges, standing hip extensions, and clamshells. Your doctor at Raleigh Orthopaedic will ensure that you understand your treatment plan and the steps of your recovery. We will answer any questions you have along the way.

How Can I Prevent Femur Shaft Fractures?

The most effective way to prevent femur shaft fractures is to eat a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D, essential in bone tissue growth. Osteoporosis, which increases the risk of femur shaft fractures, can also be prevented by performing weight-bearing exercises as part of your exercise routine. Fall prevention measures are also important. These include putting railings on staircases, ensuring adequate lighting in your home, and avoiding slippery surfaces. Taking all of these steps will reduce your risk of breaking your femur due to a fall.

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Raleigh Orthopaedic offers the best musculoskeletal care in Wake County. Our orthopedic specialists are proficient in the diagnosis and treatment of various hip issues, including pain, bursitis, arthritis, hip dislocation, and strains, along with femur shaft fractures. Entrusting us with your femur shaft fracture care will ensure that you receive support from a team that truly cares about you and your recovery. Don’t let a femur shaft fracture ruin your everyday life. Help is only a call away. Contact Raleigh Orthopaedic or book an appointment online at one of our Wake County clinics today.