Orthopaedic trauma refers to an injury to the skeletal or muscular system involving the bones, joints or soft tissue, and is usually caused by an external force. If the external force is significant, it can lead to broken bones or torn ligaments. These are traumatic conditions that warrant further investigations and sometimes even surgical fixation or repair to regain full function again.
Of the entire body, the upper and lower limbs are most susceptible to orthopaedic trauma due to their wide range of motion and the sheer frequency one uses them to complete daily tasks or participate in sports.
In this article, we will be focusing on lower limb trauma, including the common causes and treatment methods to help you gain a deeper understanding. Read on to find out more.
Common lower limb trauma
An ankle fracture can occur in any of the three bones – the tibia, fibula and talus. It can also be categorised as non-displaced or displaced; the former refers to bones that are broken but still in the right position or alignment while the latter refers to portions of the bone that are separated or misaligned. In more severe cases, the ankle might appear deformed or bone might protrude out of the skin.
A kneecap fracture, also known as a patellar fracture, impacts the small bone that sits at the front of your knee. Since its main function is to act as a shield for your knee joint, suffering trauma to the area can make it hard to bend or straighten your knee, and even walk. There are also different types of kneecap fractures – a stable fracture refers to non-displaced bones, a displaced fracture refers to bones that do not line up correctly, and a comminuted fracture refers to bone that shatters into three or more pieces. One of the earliest signs of a kneecap fracture is the loss of extension or function of the knee.
Although hip fracture rates for men and women in Singapore are on the decline, it does not mean that you are no longer at risk. It is still a fairly common orthopaedic trauma condition and can be very painful. A hip fracture can cause injury to the femoral neck, intertrochanteric area, subtrochanteric area and femoral head. You will not be able to stand, bear weight or move the upper part of your leg or knee when a hip fracture occurs. The elderly with osteoporotic bone are more prone to hip fractures from low-energy trauma like simple falls, whereas younger patients who sustain a hip fracture tend to sustain high-energy trauma from a motor vehicle accident.
4.Tibia shaft fracture
The tibia, more commonly known as the shinbone, is one of the most commonly fractured bones in the body. It occurs below the knee and above the ankle, and can fall under a few types of fractures – transverse fracture refers to a break in a straight horizontal line while an oblique/spiral fracture refers to an angulated fracture. Tibia shaft fractures are potentially unstable and these are usually treated surgically.
Causes of lower limb trauma
One of the most common causes of lower limb trauma is sports injury as a result of a collision with other players on the field and applying more force than the body can take. For instance, sports like football that require quick foot movements may make you more prone to suffering from an ankle fracture.
However, something as simple as a fall or a bad ankle sprain can also result in lower limb trauma. People who have overused their joints may result in stress fractures appearing while older patients with osteoporosis may suffer a fracture from the weakening of their bones.
Treatment methods for lower limb trauma
You will be glad to know that not all fractures require surgical intervention – non-invasive treatments can sometimes be effective too. The treatment option depends on the nature and pattern of the fracture. Non-displaced fractures and paediatric fractures are generally treated non-surgically. For example, wearing a splint or cast helps to promote healing by keeping the injured part immobilised. Non-surgical treatments like this may require a period of immobilisation followed by serial x-rays to monitor fracture healing and eventually followed by rehabilitation.
But for more serious cases such as displaced or comminuted fractures, surgery may be necessary. Your orthopaedic specialist may recommend surgical fixation of the fracture using titanium screws and plates. Surgical fixation restores the anatomy of the bone and alignment, keeping your ankle stable.
Each type of orthopaedic trauma requires different treatment methods and they are dependent on your specific condition as well.
Recovering from lower limb trauma
Most lower limb fractures take six weeks to heal and you may still need further physical therapy to help you regain strength and full mobility.
It is recommended to go for regular X-ray follow-ups, especially if your fracture is taking longer than usual to heal.
Speak to an orthopaedic doctor today
Dr Kannan Kaliyaperumal is an experienced doctor in Singapore who subspecialises in foot and ankle surgery.
He offers both non-invasive treatments as well as orthopaedic surgery options for patients of all ages and concerns.