Broken Bone Versus Fracture: What is the Difference?

Broken Bone Versus Fracture

A broken bone versus a fracture: what is the difference?–conditions/fractures-broken-bones/ They both mean the same thing. You will probably hear doctors or health care providers use the word fracture more often than broken bone.

For instance, different types of fractures or broken bones occur based on the degree of injury.

Stress fractures

Stress fractures are typically not seen on plain x-rays. They are best visualized on MRI scan. A stress fracture will show up on an MRI as a black line . In addition, a stress fracture will have fluid surrounding the fracture site on MRI. First of all , a plain xray is obtained in the doctor’s office . Secondly , if the fracture is not seen a MRI will be ordered. A stress fracture is typically from repetitive use and not a single traumatic event.

Education to show a stress reaction of a bone on a MRI scan

The image reveals a stress fracture in a calcaneous . The white arrow shows the stress fracture. The yellow circle surrounds the region of bone edema . Which is bleeding or swelling in the bone. The red circle is normal bone and normal appearance on a MRI scan.

Stress Reaction

Stress reaction is a pre stress fracture. Therefore a MRI is also needed to visualize the pathology. A stress reaction is never seen on plain x-ray. In addition, stress reaction typically occurs from repetitive use.

Hairline Fracture

A hairline fracture is seen on plain x-ray. It is a simple line that can sometimes be difficult to identify .

Educational purpose to show a hairline fracture

The black arrow points to the hairline fracture in a tibia. The yellow circle outlines the location .

Occult Fracture

You cannot see an occult fracture on plain x-ray. This is typically from a traumatic event. In other words, if an occult fracture is suspected we treat it like it is broken. On the other hand, if you want to know for sure,  an MRI scan will show the occult fracture.  MRI is very sensitive when it comes to fracture identification.

Compound or Open Fracture

A compound or open fracture is when the bone has come through the skin. Therefore if the  trauma is so severe,  the bone tears through the skin at the time of the injury. A compound or open fracture is a surgical emergency. Surgery is used to clean out the wound and open fracture. In addition, there is a high infection rate with open or compound fractures.  Conversely,  a closed fracture is a broken bone that does not stick out through the skin.

Comminuted Fracture

A comminuted fracture has more than two pieces . These are typically high energy injuries. Because of this many comminuted fractures require surgery to realign the pieces of bone.

Education to show a comminuted fracture of a tibia

The image reveals a comminuted fracture of the tibia. The tibia is the shin bone. A comminuted fracture has more than two pieces