In order to classify a fracture, also known as a broken bone, doctors will use four groupings of fracture classifications to best describe the break. There are two basic types of primary fracture classification, open and closed. The location of the fracture is defined according to the location of the bone in which it occurs, proximal, middle or distal. Within these two groups are an additional five subsets of fracture classification, transverse, spiral, oblique, comminuted and segmental. Finally, a fracture is described as either complete or incomplete, depending on the severity of the break.
An open fracture classification is given when the bone has broken in a manner that causes it to protrude through the skin. A closed fracture occurs when the broken bone remains beneath the skin. Of the four classifications, this is the easiest to determine with simple visual inspection. This is also the first fracture classification that a doctor will use when defining the specific type of fracture.
The second fracture classification is determined by the location of the bone at which the break has occurred. In order to better describe the break, each bone in the body is considered to consists of three parts, each constituting of roughly one third of the bone. A fracture can be defined as proximal, meaning that the break is located within the area of the bone closest to the body; distal, meaning that the bone has broken in the area farthest from the body; or middle, signifying that the break occurred in the midsection of the bone.
The third fracture classification is the most detailed, providing a description of the manner is which the bone is broken. If the bone is fractured in one place, it is described as either transverse, spiral or oblique. A transverse fracture is a break that goes clean across the bone in a fairly straight line. A spiral fracture is an angled break that circles around the bone. Lastly, an oblique fracture is a diagonal break within the bone.
If multiple fractures are present within the same bone, it can be described as either comminuted or segmental. When the bone has broken into several small sections in close proximity to one another, it is considered a comminuted fracture. If the breaks are spread further apart, causing larger sections of bone to be broken, the fracture is described as segmental.
Finally, a fracture will be described as either incomplete or complete. An incomplete fracture is one in which the bone has not been broken completely across, causing the bone fragments to remain connected to some degree. These types of fractures also can be refereed to as greenstick fractures or hairline fractures. If a fracture is complete, on the other hand, the bone is completely separated at the point of the break.