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Treatment

Femur Fractures
In most cases, doctors prefer to repair the fracture surgically. Surgical repair usually requires a shorter hospital stay and creates less disability than other treatment methods, such as wearing a plaster cast that covers the entire leg and hip.

To repair your fracture, the surgeon will join the segments of your broken femur using a special metal rod that is inserted into the bone's inner cavity. This rod will stabilize and reinforce the fracture site, allowing the femur to heal quickly and firmly. Once healing is complete, the metal rod may be removed or left in place.

After surgery, you will need to use crutches to avoid bearing weight on the leg, followed by a program of physical therapy. The goal of physical therapy is to restore normal strength in your leg muscles and normal range of motion in your leg joints. The entire process of healing and rehabilitation usually takes months.

Tibia Fractures
Treatment depends on the severity and location of your tibia fracture. If you have an uncomplicated fracture that is not near your knee or ankle, the doctor may be able to treat your injury by immobilizing your leg in a cast. More severe fractures usually have to be repaired surgically with a metal rod, wires, or plates and screws.

Fibula Fractures
In general, a fibula fracture that occurs without a tibia fracture can be treated without hospitalization. Your doctor probably will tell you to rest the injured leg, apply ice to the injured area, and take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others), to ease pain and relieve swelling. If bearing weight on your injured leg is very painful or if the fracture is near the ankle, your doctor may apply a cast and recommend that you use crutches temporarily.

If your fracture breaks the skin, you also will be given antibiotics intravenously (into a vein) to prevent infection. If you have not had a tetanus shot within the past 10 years, a tetanus vaccination will be recommended.

Once your fracture has healed enough, your doctor will prescribe a program of physical therapy to restore full strength and function in your injured leg.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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