Introduction to Trauma X-ray
Fracture description

Key points

  • Fracture description depends on the class of bone and the direction of the fracture line
  • A long bone fracture is described according to its direction in relation to the shaft of the bone

Bones and fractures

There are 4 anatomical classes of bone - long, short, flat and irregular. Description of a bone fracture depends on the class of bone and the direction of the fracture line.

'Long bone' fractures

Long bone fractures are described with reference to the direction of the fracture line in relation to the shaft of the bone. For example, a fracture passing perpendicular across the bone shaft is described as 'transverse'.

Other fractures passing across a long bone include, 'oblique' and 'spiral' fractures.

If a fracture passes along the shaft of a long bone then it can be described with reference to the plane in which it passes, for example coronal or sagittal.

Transverse fracture example - Tibia

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Transverse fracture example - Tibia

  • The fracture passes at right angles to the shaft of the long bone

Oblique fracture example - Metatarsal

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Oblique fracture example - Metatarsal

  • The fracture passes at an angle oblique to the shaft of the long bone

Spiral fracture example - Tibia

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Spiral fracture example - Tibia

  • This fracture resulted from a twisting injury
  • The fracture line spirals along the shaft of the long bone

Sagittal plane fracture example - Tibia

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Sagittal plane fracture example - Tibia

  • The fracture line passes longitudinally along the long bone shaft in the sagittal plane

'Irregular bone' fractures

A fracture of a short, flat or irregular bone requires a description determined by its direction through the bone. Useful terms include - horizontal, vertical, coronal, sagittal and axial.

Often a fracture can be seen to pass in more than one direction, in which case a more detailed description may be needed.

Multi-directional fracture example - Calcaneus

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Multi-directional fracture example - Calcaneus

  • A fracture line passes through the calcaneus body in both the coronal and axial planes