Broken Bones: Immediate Care

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Broken Bones: Immediate Care




Guest:  Dr. Langdon Hartsock – Orthopaedic Surgery

Host:  Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry


Dr. Linda Austin:  I’m Dr. Linda Austin.  I’m interviewing Dr. Langdon Hartsock who is Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Orthopedics.  Dr. Hartsock, you’re an expert in the orthopedic treatment of trauma.  I’d like to talk about what people should do as kind of first line at-home management when there has been a broken bone, a broken arm, a broken leg, before they can get to the emergency room.  What guidelines would you suggest?


Dr. Langdon Hartsock:  Linda, I think the main thing, of course, is we want to prevent fractures.  There’s actually been a lot of interesting research on that.  I think for your older listeners, there are some very practical things you can do at home to try to prevent injuries.  Make sure that you’re electrical cords are not on the floor where you might trip over them or any kind of throw rugs or slippery surfaces, make sure that those are taken care of because the biggest source of injuries at home are falls.  So, anything that’s cluttered up on the floor or slippery floors, people need to take care to deal with those so they don’t risk a fall. 


Now, if you fall at home and you’re injured or you think you’ve been significantly injured and something’s broken, you know, the first thing you need to do is get help.  That can be someone in your home or a neighbor, or you can call 911 and get some help.  For the folks who are around and can help the injured person, the main thing we want them to do is treat that arm or leg very gently and gently position the person so that they’re basically lying flat on the floor or on a bed, or on a couch, wherever they can be safely moved to and they’re out of any kind of harm or danger.  And, in terms of the arm or leg, just try to carefully position that arm or leg so it looks as comfortable as you can imagine it could be.  That can just be some simple pillows or some sheets or towels, something to protect and pad that injured arm or leg until help can arrive.


Dr. Linda Austin:  Would you recommend calling an ambulance or just going in by car?  I suppose it would depend on the nature of the injury.


Dr. Landon Hartsock:  I think it depends a little bit.  For older people, you worry that they may have broken a hip, you’re going to need an ambulance.  So, I think a call to 911 and just saying what happened, you know, somebody has fallen down and their hip hurts and they can’t move and you think you need an ambulance.  That’s a very reasonable thing to do.  I think if you’ve fallen down and injured your hand or your finger, or your arm, you probably don’t need an ambulance for that, but you probably shouldn’t try to drive yourself to the doctor or to the hospital.  You need to get a family member or a friend to take you to the doctor or to the hospital and have it checked out.


Dr. Linda Austin:  We hear, sometimes, of situations where folks do not get to the hospital quickly enough.  Why is it important to have a broken bone seen by a doctor pretty quickly?


Dr. Langdon Hartsock:  That’s a great question.  Unfortunately, we do see some very tragic situations sometimes where people have, for whatever reason, not come to the doctor right away.  The reason it’s important to come and get it checked out quickly is there is the potential for very serious consequences from a broken bone.  One is that if the bones are crooked, the circulation to the arm or leg can be damaged or shut down in some way, so all those nerves and muscles, and everything else, aren’t getting any blood flow.  And that can have, unfortunately, very serious consequences.


Sometimes nerves can be damaged.  Sometimes, if there are any open wounds, infection can set it, which is also very serious.  So, if you’re concerned you’ve had a serious injury, a fracture, then, really, it is important to come on in to, usually, the emergency room or call your doctor and ask him where you should go and have that seen right away.


Dr. Linda Austin:  Thank you so much for talking with us today.


Dr. Langdon Hartsock:  Great.  Thank you.


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