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Femur Fracture - Broken Thigh Bone

Introduction
The bone in your thigh is called the femur.  It is the strongest bone in the body.  The femur is very difficult to break or fracture, but it can, as the result of a high impact vehicle crash or fall from a great height.  Treatment for a femur fracture depends on the location and type of break in the bone, as well as the age of the person. 

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Anatomy
The femur is the long bone in your thigh.  The long part of the bone is called the shaft.  The top of the femur (femoral head) is part of the hip joint.  The lower part of the femur helps form the knee joint. 

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Causes
Femur fractures result from high impact forces, such as those experienced in a high-speed vehicle collision or fall from a height.  Older adults may experience femur fractures near the hip or the knee side of the bone after a fall, as the result of osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease.

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Symptoms

Femur fractures can cause severe pain, swelling, and bruising.  Your leg may look shorter or out of its normal position.  You may not be able to move your leg.

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Diagnosis
Your doctor can diagnose a femur fracture by examining your leg and taking some X-rays.  X-rays of the pelvis and knee joints may be taken as well.  Your doctor will evaluate the nerves and blood vessels in your limb.

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Treatment
Casting may be used to treat young children with a fracture in the shaft of the femur.  A spica cast is used to immobilize the hips and the other leg.

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Surgery
Most femur fractures are treated with a surgical procedure called intramedullary fixation.  The procedure entails inserting a rod (intramedullary nail) into the center of the bone.  The rod is secured with surgical screws.  The rod provides support and stability while the fracture heals.  After the fracture has healed, the hardware serves no further purpose, and may be removed.

Other less commonly performed femur surgeries include plating and external fixation.  Plating involves securing a plate and screws into the bone to keep it in proper position while it heals.  External fixation uses a frame that is aligned on the outside of the leg and secured with surgical pins to keep the bones from moving while they heal.  External fixation may be used in the case of severe skin wounds and a femur fracture.

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Recovery
Physical therapy rehabilitation usually follows treatment.  You will learn exercises to increase range of motion, flexibility, and strength.  People that receive intramedullary fixation may be able to bear weight and walk sooner than people may with other types of treatments. 

Overall, recovery is different for everyone.  Recovery time depends on several factors, including the severity and location of injury, if nerves or blood vessels were affected, and the type of treatment that you received.  It can take a femur fracture from three to six months to heal.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.