A broken arm is a common form of injury. It refers to the snapping of one or more of the three bones of the arm. Many people suffer a broken arm at least once. This break may be a result of falling on an outstretched arm or caused by violent impact on the arm, breaking the bone (a car crash for example). If you break your arm you will experience tremendous pain, especially when you move the arm. You will also notice some swelling across the arm. In case of a broken arm you must visit your GP who will then re-set the bone.
The doctor, after enquiring about the cause of the broken bone, will physically examine the arm. The patient will be asked to flex the arm, wiggle the fingers, rotate the wrist; the patient’s reaction helps the doctor understand the severity of damage. The doctor will then order an arm x-ray to see the extent of the damage and the position of the break.
An x-ray or radiography is one of the oldest diagnostic tools in medicine. It is a form of high frequency electromagnetic radiation. During an x-ray procedure the affected body part, the broken arm in this example, is exposed to a small dose of ionizing radiation. The x-rays are able to pass through the body and produce images of the broken bone.
This non-invasive imaging technique allows physicians to see the state and condition of the insides of the body without having to cut into the body. In the case of a broken arm doctors can determine the location of the break and the extent of injury and if any other. In case of severe injury the doctor will order for a more detailed computerized tomography (CT) scan.
X-rays are handled in hospitals and clinics by the radiology department. The equipment and testing is handled by specially trained radiologists. The x-ray positioning depends on the affected part of the body. In this case, the arm is placed on the x-ray table. The x-ray film holder is then placed under the table and produces the x-ray image. The entire process takes about ten minutes.
By studying the x-ray, doctors know where the arm needs to be set. A simple break can be set using plaster and a sling. A more complex break may need surgery or implants like nails and plates to hold the shattered bone. The bone takes several weeks to heal. In case of a severe break the recovery time will be longer and may involve physiotherapy.