About lower limb fractures
Fractures are breaks or cracks in the bone. The bone may fracture crossways or lengthways. It may break in one place or several places. You may experience a clean break or the bone may fracture into many pieces. An open fracture is one where the bone pokes out of the skin. Closed fractures do not break through the skin.
Common fractures of the lower limbs affect the hips, knees, tibia and ankle. They include:
- Fractured patella (kneecap) – this may occur as the result of a heavy blow to the knee, a collision or a fall. If the bones are weakened due to osteoporosis a fractured knee can develop from something as simple as missing your footing. The kneecap may crack or break into several pieces. If the fracture is displaced the broken pieces will become separated. This requires surgery to repair it. Repairing an open fracture (where the skin is broken) is a complex procedure with a risk of infection. Comminuted knee fractures are those where the bone is shattered into three pieces or more.
- Hip fractures – these are serious injuries with potentially life-threatening complications. The risk of hip fractures increases with age as bones tend to weaken as people become older due to osteoporosis. Older people are more prone to falls due to becoming more unstable on their feet, as well as problems with eyesight and cognition. Certain medication and chronic health conditions can also lead to weakened bones and an increased risk of hip fracture. A sedentary lifestyle can also reduce bone density, leading to weaker bones.