Broken bones can be difficult to detect. It is best to seek medical advice if unsure.

Care for a broken leg

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A broken leg can cause intense pain and it appears swollen or bruised. In most cases, the individual might not be able to walk on it. In severe cases, the leg might appear deformed and the bone might poke out of the skin.

There is also a cracking sound that can be heard if the leg was broken and the shock and pain from the injury can cause the individual to feel dizzy, faint or sick.

What should I do?

If you suspect that an individual has a broken leg, bring him/her to the nearest emergency department. Call for emergency assistance if the injury appears severe or the individual could not be taken to a healthcare facility quickly.

  • Avoid moving the injured leg if possible. It should be kept straight and place a pillow or clothing beneath for support.
  • Do not attempt to realign any bones out of place.
    Broken leg
    Avoid moving the injured leg if possible. It should be kept straight and place a pillow or clothing beneath for support.
  • Open wounds should be covered using a sterile dressing, clean clothing or clean cloth. If bleeding continues, place direct pressure on the wound.

If the individual is cold, pale and sweaty, lie him/her down and carefully rest the legs above the level of the heart to improve the flow of blood. When elevating the broken leg, make sure that it is straight and supported by a cushion. In addition, keep the individual warm and calm until you can get medical help.

Recovery

The doctor will provide instructions on how the leg should be moved and when weight can be placed on the broken leg. Remember that it takes around 6-8 weeks for a minor fracture to heal. Crutches or a wheelchair might be needed during this period until it is possible to place weight on the leg again. The individual is shown how to safely use any mobility equipment provided with.

As for severe cases of fractures, it can take between 3-6 weeks to completely heal. Some cases might take even a longer time.

What are the possible complications?

In most cases, a broken bone can heal in a few months and there are no further issues. Nevertheless, some complications can oftentimes occur such as the following:

  • Damaged nerves, muscles or blood vessels in the region of the fracture. This can manifest during the initial damage or during a surgical procedure. It can result to the loss of motion or sensation or even affect the blood supply to the limb.
  • Compartment syndrome is a painful and potentially serious condition due to bleeding or swelling within a muscle bundle.
  • Bone infection is likely to occur if surgery is performed or the broken bone pierces out of the skin.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on a broken leg is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to manage broken bones and fractures including a broken leg, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are located in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Victoria, Ottawa and Halifax.

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