Mayo Clinic Health Library

Fractures (broken bones)

Updated: 03-23-2012

A fracture is a broken bone. It requires medical attention. If the broken bone is the result of major trauma or injury, call 911 or your local emergency number. Also call for emergency help if:

  • The person is unresponsive, isn't breathing or isn't moving. Begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if there's no respiration or heartbeat.
  • There is heavy bleeding.
  • Even gentle pressure or movement causes pain.
  • The limb or joint appears deformed.
  • The bone has pierced the skin.
  • The extremity of the injured arm or leg, such as a toe or finger, is numb or bluish at the tip.
  • You suspect a bone is broken in the neck, head or back.
  • You suspect a bone is broken in the hip, pelvis or upper leg (for example, the leg and foot turn outward abnormally).

Don't move the person except if necessary to avoid further injury. Take these actions immediately while waiting for medical help:

  • Stop any bleeding. Apply pressure to the wound with a sterile bandage, a clean cloth or a clean piece of clothing.
  • Immobilize the injured area. Don't try to realign the bone or push a bone that's sticking out back in. If you've been trained in how to splint and professional help isn't readily available, apply a splint to the area above and below the fracture sites. Padding the splints can help reduce discomfort.
  • Apply ice packs to limit swelling and help relieve pain until emergency personnel arrive. Don't apply ice directly to the skin — wrap the ice in a towel, piece of cloth or some other material.
  • Treat for shock. If the person feels faint or is breathing in short, rapid breaths, lay the person down with the head slightly lower than the trunk and, if possible, elevate the legs.

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