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Broken Leg

Alternative names: Fractured Leg, Fractured Tibia, Fractured Fibula, Fractured Femur

What is a broken leg?

A broken leg is a common term for the fracture of one or more of the bones that make up the leg. Below the knee are the fibula and the tibia bones. Above the knee is the femur, the longest bone in the body. A leg fracture – often caused by an accident or sports injury – occurs when more pressure is put on any bone than it can stand, and it splits, splinters, or breaks. If you suspect someone has a broken leg, you should avoid moving them and should contact the emergency services immediately by calling 911.

What are the signs of a broken leg?

  • Extreme, sudden pain in the leg
  • Sometimes bone sticking out of the surface of the skin

What causes a broken leg?

Common causes include:

  • A fall from a height
  • A motor vehicle accident
  • A direct blow

How does my doctor tell if I have a broken leg?

Your doctor will take some of the following steps to see if you have a broken leg:

  • Talk with the patient to find out if the pain occurred after a fall, a twist, or some other physical action. Find out if bones have been broken previously in the leg.
  • Perform a physical examination, by looking at the patient's leg
  • Order an X-ray

How is a broken leg treated?

A first-aid response is appropriate if you suspect a broken leg. In other words, do not move the patient unless their life is in immediate danger – for instance, if they are unable to breathe or trapped in a fire.

After a patient is diagnosed with a broken leg, the doctor will have to determine the best treatment depending on the type of break.

Surgery is often considered to treat a fractured leg. The surgeon chooses the treatment method based on the severity of the fracture.

Recovery time from a broken leg varies enormously depending on such factors as the type of break, how many surgical procedures are required to repair the damage, and on how soon physical therapy (rehab) can begin.

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