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A Fractured Femur: Causes and Treatment Options

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The largest and strongest bone in the body is the femur, also known as the thigh bone. It starts at the hip joint and extends to the knee joint. Due to its density, it takes a significant amount of force to cause it to fracture.

Because the femur is such a strong bone, injury is usually sustained to it by virtue of a car accident or a fall from a great height. Other injuries to it can be due to an inherent problem within the bone itself, such as osteoporosis, a tumor or an infection.

Fractures of the femur are usually separated into three categories:

1. Proximal Femur Fractures – These are also known as hip fractures and they involve the upper part of the thigh bone, contiguous to the hip joint;

2. Femoral Shaft Fractures – This type of fracture is usually caused by a severe injury, such as in the case of a high-speed car accident or a significant fall. The treatment for this type of fracture is usually through surgery. A metal rod is inserted down the center of the thigh bone, connecting the two ends of the bone, secured into place with screws above and below the fracture. The rod is permanently in place, unless it causes pain or other problems for the patient down the road; and

3. Supracondylar Femur Fractures – This is an unusual injury that occurs just above the knee joint, often involving the cartilage surface of the knee joint. Those who sustain this type of fracture are at a greater risk later for developing arthritis in the knee. This type of injury is also more prevalent in those present with severe osteoporosis and who have undergone a total knee replacement. Treatment for this condition varies, and may require a cast, brace, plate, screws, or metal rod. As variations to this type of fracture exist, treatment options all depend upon the best means by which to fix the fracture.

Interestingly enough, I know of one prominent 75-year-old physician in Texas who was casually walking through the cafeteria in the hospital at which he works this past October when he slipped on something unexpected, causing him to fall and sustain significant injury to his femur that resulted in surgery and three weeks of at-home rest and care.

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