Bone fractures can happen at any point in a person’s life. In their effort to better treat people with broken bones, orthopedic surgeons are trying a new, more active approach.
Bone fractures can happen at any point in a person’s life, and they often happen as the result of a strong force, impact, pressure or stress. Factors such as age, an underlying illness, or certain physical activities often determine the type and severity of the break.
Dr. Steven Gross, an orthopedic surgeon at Lake Cook Orthopedic Associates in Barrington, sees many patients who have suffered some kind of traumatic event that caused bone fractures. He also specializes in surgery related to sports medicine and joint replacement.
“I routinely see patients in my office, for initial evaluation, who have breaks in bones in their wrists, arms, ankles and feet,” Gross says. “Patients who have broken legs, pelvises, knees and hips are, often out of necessity, seen in the hospital because they cannot walk or move around easily.”
Sprains and some hairline fractures may not require surgical repair if they are stable enough. But for fractures that require surgical treatment, Gross explains, the use of plates, screws and rods remains the most common method.
“How the fracture is repaired depends on where the break is located, the severity of the break, and the way in which the bone is broken,” Gross says. “Each patient is unique and needs to be treated appropriately. The injury can be the result of an accident or serious fall, or it could be sports-related.”
Gross explains that his patient base is spread across a wide age range, because more people are staying active as they age.
“I have operated on patients in their 90s,” Gross says. “It depends as much on the patient’s activity level as it does on his or her actual age.”
Recently, more emphasis has been placed on a patient’s other medical conditions, which may include osteoporosis or diabetes.
“Certain circumstances make a difference in how fast and how well a patient heals,” Gross says. “We have scientific evidence, for example, that a diabetic patient with a broken bone heals more quickly and with less risk of infection when his or her blood glucose levels are tightly controlled. We pay more attention now to a patient’s hemoglobin A1C, the test that measures blood glucose over a three-month period.”
He also points out that Lake Cook Orthopedic Associates partners with the patient’s primary doctor.
By taking a closer look at how a patient heals, and understanding more about how other factors impact that healing process, orthopedic medical science is advancing much more swiftly than the actual techniques and equipment used for the surgery.
“We have begun to take a much more active role in related aspects of health, such as osteoporosis,” Gross says. “Between one-third and one-half of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D. That’s a truly high number of people who are vulnerable to weakened bones and slow healing.”
Gross and the team at Lake Cook Orthopedic Associates have taken the initiative in working with patients and encouraging them to be screened with bone density tests and metabolic screening. Special care is taken with patients who are deemed high-risk.
“When we find patients who have suffered bone breaks from simply bumping into something or stepping off a low step, we go beyond treating the injury,” Gross says. “Preventative care can make a huge difference in reducing the chance of future injuries and maintaining good health.”