Long bone fracture

Last reviewed: 28 Aug 2022
Last updated: 10 Mar 2020



History and exam

Key diagnostic factors

  • pain
  • soft tissue swelling
  • ecchymosis
  • expanding hematoma
  • impaired limb function
  • inability to bear weight
  • point tenderness
  • deformity
  • guarding
  • wound overlying site of injury
  • signs of ischemic limb
  • hypotension/hypovolemic shock
More key diagnostic factors

Other diagnostic factors

  • altered nerve sensation
  • impaired motor function
  • bony crepitus
  • callus
  • reproduction of symptoms in stress fractures of the neck or shaft of the femur
Other diagnostic factors

Risk factors

  • direct trauma
  • indirect trauma
  • osteoporosis (insufficiency fractures)
  • chronic renal failure
  • diabetes mellitus
  • bone tumor (pathologic fractures)
  • age >70 years
  • age <30 years
  • male sex (acute fractures)
  • female sex (stress and insufficiency fractures)
  • prolonged corticosteroid use (insufficiency fractures)
  • low BMI (insufficiency fractures)
  • history of recent fall (insufficiency fractures)
  • prior fracture (insufficiency fractures)
  • seizures (proximal humerus fracture)
  • long-term bisphosphonate use
More risk factors

Diagnostic investigations

1st investigations to order

  • x-ray limb
  • CBC, blood typing, and cross-matching (major trauma)
More 1st investigations to order

Investigations to consider

  • noncontrast CT of fracture
  • triple-phase bone scan
  • MRI limb
  • compartment pressure testing
  • Doppler pressure (ankle/brachial systolic pressure index)
  • ultrasound duplex scanning
  • angiography
  • dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry bone density scan
More investigations to consider

Treatment algorithm


involved in high-energy trauma


distal humeral shaft: nonstress

midshaft humeral: nonstress

proximal humeral shaft: nonstress

radial or ulnar shaft: nonstress

upper limb stress fractures

femoral shaft: nonstress

tibia or fibula shaft: nonstress

femoral stress fractures

fibular or posteromedial tibial stress fractures



Philip H. Cohen, MD

Attending Physician

Rutgers University Health Services

Clinical Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Family Medicine

Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School




PHC has given lectures for MCE Conferences, a medical education company, and received a stipend/free hotel room during the conference. MCE Conferences accepts no funding from pharmaceutical companies or other outside agencies, and PHC declares that the lectures have no impact on the topic.

Peer reviewers

Peter Giannoudis, MD, FRCS


Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery

University of Leeds




PG is an editor for Chief Injury. He has received research grant support from Depuy-Synthes, Biomet, and Pfizer, and has received honoraria from Olympus Biotech, Medtronic, Pfizer, Biomet, and AO Foundation.

Brad Petrisor, MSc, MD, FRCSC

Orthopaedic Trauma Surgeon

Assistant Professor

Department of Surgery

McMaster University




BP has received speaking fees from AO North America, OTC, Stryker, and Smith & Nephew. BP has received consult fees from Stryker Canada.

  • Long bone fracture images
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  • Guidelines

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    • Optimal timing of femur fracture stabilization in polytrauma patients
    More Guidelines
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