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Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Femur Fracture; Thigh Bone Fracture; Broken Leg)

Definition

A femoral fracture is a break in the thigh bone. It runs from the hip to the knee.

Femoral Fracture
Femur Fracture
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

This injury is caused by trauma from:

  • A motor vehicle accident
  • Falls
  • A blow
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Stress on a weakened bone

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk are:

  • Having a health problem that may result in falls, such as weak muscles
  • Playing contact sports, such as football
  • Playing sports that require repetitive motion, such as running
  • Being around violence

Symptoms

Symptoms may be:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Problems standing or moving
  • Changes in the way the leg looks

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and injury. An exam will be done, focusing on your leg. A diagnosis may be made based on appearance.X-rays or CT scan may be needed to see how severe the break is or if soft tissue was injured.

Treatment

It will take 4 to 6 months to heal. Most people will need surgery. The surgery is often done within 1 to 2 days. The bone is attached to powerful muscles and may need support to keep the bone pieces in place. Long pins, plates, or screws can help support the bone as it heals.

External fixation may also be needed for severe breaks. It uses metal bars and screws outside of the body to help keep bones stable. The device will be removed as the bone heals.

Movement

Early movement can decrease risk of problems and speed healing. Bearing weight on the leg will depend on how severe fracture is and what support has been attached to the bone. The surgeon will make a schedule for activity. Walkers or crutches may be needed.

Muscles weakness and imbalance are common after a femur fracture. Physical therapy may help regain strength and movement.

Children's bones have growth plates that let bones grow and harden with age. A child with a fracture may need to be checked over time to make sure the bone heals the right way and keeps growing.

Prevention

Most fractures are due to accidents. Always wear a seatbelt.

Healthy bones and muscles may also prevent injury. This may be done through diet and exercise.

RESOURCES

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine  http://www.sportsmed.org 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons  http://www.orthoinfo.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association  http://www.coa-aco.org 

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation  http://www.canorth.org 

References

Femoral shaft fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/femoral-shaft-fracture-emergency-management. Accessed September 24, 2020.

Femoral stress fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/femoral-stress-fracture. Accessed September 24, 2020.

Femur shaft fractures (broken thighbone). Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00521. Accessed September 24, 2020.

Tins BJ, Garton M, et al. Stress fracture of the pelvis and lower limbs including atypical femoral fractures-a review. Insights Imaging. 2015 Feb;6(1):97-110.

Revision Information