Leg Fracture

The main bone in the leg (tibia) breaks into two or more pieces depending on how bad the injury.

Pathology

Leg bone fractures can occur in young or older patients. These fractures usually occur from a fall in older patients or high-speed injuries such as motor vehicle or motorcycle accidents in younger patients. The main bone in the leg (tibia) breaks into two or more pieces depending on how bad the injury is. The smaller bone in the leg (fibula) may break as well but is often not fixed, unless there has been an ankle injury as well. X-rays show the breaks, their location and pattern. A physical examination is important to check for injuries to other structures, such as muscles or nerves.

Treatment

Fractures of the leg bone can be incomplete fractures and the bones do not move out of place too much. When this is the case, these fractures can be treated in a cast and then a walking boot. When these fractures are complete or if the bones have moved around, they often require surgery. Surgery ensures that the bone is aligned in the correct position and that the patient can begin to put weight on the leg immediately. This used to be done with long incisions and plates and screws. Now special slender metal rods can be placed inside the bone through small incisions. Therapists work with the patient the next day after surgery to start moving the leg, working on strengthening the muscles around the knee and leg, and to begin walking again. Once the fracture(s) is healed, most patients are able to return to their activities with or without limitations, based on their pre-injury level of ambulation and function.