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The skeleton and fractures

The skeleton is the foundation of the anatomy of the body in humans. As we walk upright (most of the time!), the skeleton is split into the axial skeleton, which follows a vertical alignment of the main parts, and the appendicular skeleton which is supported through the axial skeleton.

The axial skeleton includes the skull, rib cage and vertebrae, while the appendicular skeleton includes the bones that are based on them: the pectoral girdles, pelvis and limbs.

Bone fractures can be classified according to their mechanism (cause), displacement and fracture pattern, amongst other things. Bone fractures are defined as damage to the integrity of the bone.

Based on cause, fractures are classified as traumatic fractures e.g. falls, accidents, violence; pathologic fractures e.g. as a result of a bone-weakening condition like osteoporosis; and periprosthetic fractures sustained during or following an implant like a hip or knee replacement.

Based on displacement, fractures can be displaced if they are moved from their original position, or non-displaced if they are in the same position. Based on fracture pattern, they can be transverse, oblique, spiral, greenstick (such as in children where bones aren’t as brittle as those of adults, so fractures don’t readily spread transversely all the way through the bone) and others. Comminuted fractures involve shattered bone with many broken pieces.

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