When Surgery is Needed to Repair a Fracture

Determining whether or not a fracture requires surgical repair depends on the nature of the injury.  "I see everything from shoulders to fingertips and hips to toes, and whether or not a fracture requires surgery really depends upon the degree to which the bone pieces are separated," says Dr. Matthew S. Grunkemeyer, a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon who treats both pediatric and adult patients.

Sometimes the location of the break matters as well.  In general, if you break one of the body's large, weight-bearing bones, such as your thigh bone (femur), you will likely need surgery.  "You really can't properly cast a major bone like the femur, so very often healing requires surgical placement of a rod to support the bone and allow the patient to bear weight."  

Further, fractures that involve a joint often require surgical repair.  "When a bone crack protrudes into a joint, we use surgery to return that joint to its normal anatomical position and function," Dr. Grunkemeyer notes.  "This helps prevent later development of arthritis in the joint - a painful, sometimes debilitating inflammation."