THE DR. IS IN: Are bone fractures treatable at urgent care centers?
Most of us have had at least one broken bone – after all, we each have 206 of them!
Broken bones (also called fractures) are a common injury for those of all ages.
They are a common injury for children under age 10, who, because their bones are still growing and have additional risks like damage to growth plates and growth at wrong angles.
Symptoms of a broken bone include swelling, bruising and being unable to put weight on it or use it for normal movement.
Treatment depends on the severity of the break and on which bone is actually broken.
Some breaks are severe and need immediate attention while others can be stabilized and properly set by an orthopedist several days later.
Urgent care clinics can help fill a vital gap in the event that you suffer a break or fracture and your regular doctor is not available, nor can you wait for an appointment.
If any sudden illness or injury is something you would normally feel comfortable addressing with your primary care doctor, then an urgent care setting is probably more appropriate than the emergency room.
It is important to know that if any of the following occur, you should seek immediate medical attention or call 911:
- There is heavy bleeding or if gentle pressure or movement causes pain
- The bone has pierced the skin
- The extremity is numb or bluish at the tip
- The neck, head, hip or back appears broken
Don’t try to realign the body part. If circulation is poor and the skin is turning pale, and no medical assistance is available, gently moving the injured part back into its normal position may improve circulation.
Avoid making the splint too tight, which can cut off circulation.
If the bone is sticking out from the skin, do not try to push it back in. Use a clean, dry cloth or bandage to cover it until medical help arrives.
Apply ice pack to reduce swelling (except for small children and not directly on the skin).
Stop any bleeding by gently applying pressure to the wound with a sterile bandage or clean cloth.
Bone injuries to the face are an exception and require treatment in an ER with appropriate diagnostic tools.
If the injured person isn’t experiencing the above symptoms, stabilize the injury with a splint.
Keep the injury elevated and seek medical attention.
Most fractures can be diagnosed with an X-ray. Once diagnosed, a medical provider will splint or stabilize the fractured bone and refer you to an orthopedist, if needed.