Fractures typically occur when a powerful force is placed upon a bone, forcing it to bend and eventually snap or break. Non-displaced fractures refer to the way in which the bone broke. Usually, this type of fracture occurs when the bone partially or fully breaks in one spot, but remains aligned. In most cases, an x-ray is needed to diagnose this type of break as it is not normally obvious to the naked eye.
Non-displaced fractures are typically clean breaks to the bone. This usually occurs when the blow to the bone is swift and dispersed along a larger area. As such, it is normal for the bone to only break partially, which means there is usually only a crack in the bone that does not go all the way through. They differ from displaced fractures because a displaced fracture normally results in a complete break and shifts the bone from its original place, sometimes so much that is protrudes from the body.
Due to the nature of this type of fracture, a person may not be able to tell if there is an actual break in the bone. Typically, this type of fracture is seen only in an x-ray, but depending on how and where the fracture occurs, a Computed Tomography (CT) scan may be used. Before the orthopedic doctor checks for a non-displaced fracture, a person may suspect there is a fracture if certain signs of a break appear. These signs usually include stiffness, tenderness, severe pain and swelling of the area.
As a non-displaced fracture means the bone remains aligned, treating the fracture is usually simpler than treating other types of breaks. Sometimes the doctor may apply temporary pain relief to the area and provide medication to help with swelling. The doctor may then apply a splint or cast to prevent any further damage while the bone heals. This largely depends on the nature of the break and where the break occurred. A non-displaced fracture on the skull, for instance, may require very little care, and a protective covering is typically unnecessary.
Some fractures carry risk for further damage after the break occurs. Although this type of fracture leaves the bone in its original spot, it may be at risk for moving and becoming a displaced fracture sometimes weeks after the original break took place. This will cause even more damage to the surrounding area. An orthopedic doctor will typically monitor a non-displaced fracture to determine the likelihood of this happening. Fractures that happen near joints may also put the person at high risk for having arthritis in the affected area later in life.