4 - First Aid for Fractures
A fracture is any break in the continuity of a bone. Fractures can cause total
disability or in some cases death. On the other hand, they can most often be treated
so there is complete recovery. A great deal depends upon the first aid the individual
receives before he is moved. First aid includes immobilizing the fractured part
in addition to applying lifesaving measures. The basic splinting principle
is to immobilize the joints above and below any fracture.
4-1. Kinds of Fractures
See figure 4-1 for detailed illustration.
Closed Fracture. A closed fracture is a broken bone that does not break the
overlying skin. Tissue beneath the skin may be damaged. A dislocation is
when a joint, such as a knee, ankle, or shoulder, is not in proper position. A
sprain is when the connecting tissues of the joints have been torn. Dislocations
and sprains should be treated as closed fractures.
Fracture. An open fracture is a broken bone that breaks (pierces) the overlying
skin. The broken bone may come through the skin, or a missile such as a bullet
or shell fragment may go through the flesh and break the bone. An open fracture
is contaminated and subject to infection.
Signs/Symptoms of Fractures (081-831-1000)
Indications of a fracture
are deformity, tenderness, swelling, pain, inability to move the injured part,
protruding bone, bleeding, or discolored skin at the injury site. A sharp pain
when the individual attempts to move the part is also a sign of a fracture. DO
NOT encourage the casualty to move the injured part in order to identify a fracture
since such movement could cause further damage to surrounding tissues and promote
shock. If you are not sure whether a bone is fractured, treat the injury as a
Purposes of Immobilizing Fractures
A fracture is immobilized to prevent
the sharp edges of the bone from moving and cutting tissue, muscle, blood vessels,
and nerves. This reduces pain and helps prevent or control shock. In a closed
fracture, immobilization keeps bone fragments from causing an open wound and prevents
contamination and possible infection. Splint to immobilize.
Splints, Padding, Bandages, Slings, and Swathes (081-831-1034)
a. Splints. Splints may be improvised from such items as boards, poles,
sticks, tree limbs, rolled magazines, rolled newspapers, or cardboard. If nothing
is available for a splint, the chest wall can be used to immobilize a fractured
arm and the uninjured leg can be used to immobilize (to some extent) the fractured
b. Padding. Padding may be improvised from such items as a jacket,
blanket, poncho, shelter half, or leafy vegetation.
c. Bandages. Bandages
may be improvised from belts, rifle slings, bandoleers, kerchiefs, or strips torn
from clothing or blankets. Narrow materials such as wire or cord should not be
used to secure a splint in place.
d. Slings. A sling is a bandage (or
improvised material such as a piece of cloth, a belt, and so forth) suspended
from the neck to support an upper extremity. Also, slings may be improvised by
using the tail of a coat or shirt, and pieces torn from such items as clothing
and blankets. The triangular bandage is ideal for this purpose. Remember that
the casualty’s hand should be higher than his elbow, and the sling should be applied
so that the supporting pressure is on the uninjured side
e. Swathes. Swathes
are any bands (pieces of cloth, pistol belts, and so forth) that are used to further
immobilize a splinted fracture. Triangular and cravat bandages are often used
as or referred to as swathe bandages. The purpose of the swathe is to immobilize,
therefore, the swathe bandage is placed above and/or below the fracture—not over
Procedures for Splinting Suspected Fractures (081-831-1034)
Before beginning first aid treatment for a fracture, gather whatever splinting
materials are available. Materials may consist of splints, such as wooden boards,
branches, or poles. Other splinting materials include padding, improvised cravats,
and/or bandages, Ensure that splints are long enough to immobilize the joint above
and below the suspected fracture. If possible, use at least four ties (two above
and two below the fracture) to secure the splints. The ties should be nonslip
knots and should be tied away from the body on the splint.
* a. Evaluate
the Casualty (081-831-1000). Be prepared to perform my necessary lifesaving
measures. Monitor the casualty for development of conditions which may require
you to perform necessary basic lifesaving measures. These measures include clearing
the airway, rescue breathing, preventing shock, and/or bleeding control.
Unless there is immediate life-threatening danger, such
as a fire or an explosion, DO NOT move the casualty with a suspected back or neck
injury. Improper movement may cause permanent paralysis or death.
In a chemical environment, DO NOT remove any protective
clothing. Apply the dressing/splint over the clothing.
Locate the Site of the Suspected Fracture. Ask the casualty for the location
of the injury. Does he have any pain? Where is it tender? Can he move the extremity?
Look for an unnatural position of the extremity. Look for a bone sticking out
c. Prepare the Casualty for Splinting the Suspected Fracture
(1) Reassure the casualty. Tell him that you will be taking
care of him and that medical aid is on the way.
(2) Loosen any tight or binding
(3) Remove all the jewelry from the casualty and place it in the
casualty’s pocket. Tell the casualty you are doing this because if the jewelry
is not removed at this time and swelling occurs later, further bodily injury can
should not be removed from the casualty unless they are needed to stabilize a
neck injury, or there is actual bleeding from the foot.
Gather Splinting Materials (081-831-1034). If standard splinting materials
(splints, padding, cravats, and so forth) are not available, gather improvised
materials. Splints can be improvised from wooden boards, tree branches, poles,
rolled newspapers or magazines. Splints should be long enough to reach beyond
the joints above and below the suspected fracture site. Improvised padding, such
as a jacket, blanket, poncho, shelter half, or leafy vegetation may be used. A
cravat can be improvised from a piece of cloth, a large bandage, a shirt, or a
towel. Also, to immobilize a suspected fracture of an arm or a leg, parts of the
casualty’s body may be used. For example, the chest wall may be used to immobilize
an arm; and the uninjured leg may be used to
immobilize the injured leg.
splinting material is not available and suspected fracture CANNOT be splinted,
then swathes, or a combination of swathes and slings can be used to immobilize
Pad the Splints (081-831-1034). Pad the splints where they touch any bony
part of the body, such as the elbow, wrist, knee, ankle, crotch, or armpit area.
Padding prevents excessive pressure to the area.
f. Check the Circulation
Below the Site of the Injury (081-831-1034).
(1) Note any pale, white,
or bluish-gray color of the skin which may indicate impaired circulation. Circulation
can also be checked by depressing the toe/fingernail beds and observing how quickly
the color returns. A slower return of pink color to the injured side when compared
with the uninjured side indicates a problem with circulation. Depressing the toe/fingernail
beds is a method to use to check the circulation in a dark-skinned casualty.
Check the temperature of the injured extremity. Use your hand to compare the temperature
of the injured side with the uninjured side of the body. The body area below the
injury maybe colder to the touch indicating poor circulation.
the casualty about the presence of numbness, tightness, cold, or tingling sensations.
with fractures to the extremities may show impaired circulation, such as numbness,
tingling, cold and/or pale to blue skin. These casualties should be evacuated
by medical personnel and treated as soon as possible. Prompt medical treatment
may prevent possible loss of the limb.
it is an open fracture (skin is broken; bone(s) may be sticking out), DO NOT ATTEMPT
TO PUSH BONE(S) BACK UNDER THE SKIN. Apply a field dressing to protect the area.
See Task 081-831-1016, Put on a Field or Pressure Dressing.
Apply the Splint in Place (081-831-1034).
(1) Splint the fracture(s) in
the position found. DO NOT attempt to reposition or straighten the injury. If
it is an open fracture, stop the bleeding and protect the wound. (See Chapter
2, Section II, for detailed information.) Cover all wounds with field dressings
before applying a splint. Remember to use the casualty’s field dressing, not your
own. If bones are protruding (sticking out), DO NOT attempt to push them back
under the skin. Apply dressings to protect the area.
(2) Place one splint on
each side of the arm or leg. Make sure that the splints reach, if possible, beyond
the joints above and below the fracture.
(3) Tie the splints. Secure each splint
in place above and below the fracture site with improvised (or actual)
cravats. Improvised cravats, such as strips of cloth, belts, or whatever else
you have, may be used. With minimal motion to the injured areas, place and tie
the splints with the bandages. Push cravats through and under the natural
body curvatures (spaces), and then gently position improvised cravats and tie
in place. Use nonslip knots. Tie all knots on the splint away from the casualty
(Figure 4-2). DO NOT tie cravats directly over suspected fracture/dislocation
Check the Splint for Tightness (081-831-1034).
(1) Check to be sure that
bandages are tight enough to securely hold splinting materials in place, but not
so tight that circulation is impaired.
(2) Recheck the circulation after application
of the splint. Check the skin color and temperature. This is to ensure that the
bandages holding the splint in place have not been tied too tightly. A finger
tip check can be made by inserting the tip of the finger between the wrapped tails
and the skin.
(3) Make any adjustment without allowing the splint to become
i. Apply a Sling if Applicable (081-831-1034). An improvised
sling may be made from any available nonstretching piece of cloth, such as a fatigue
shirt or trouser, poncho, or shelter half. Slings may also be improvised using
the tail of a coat, belt, or a piece of cloth from a blanket or some clothing.
See Figure 4-3 for an illustration of a shirt tail used for support. A pistol
belt or trouser belt also may be used for support (Figure 4-4). A sling should
place the supporting pressure on the casualty’s uninjured side. The supported
arm should have the hand positioned slightly higher than the elbow.
(1) Insert the splinted arm in the center of the sling (Figure 4-5).
Bring the ends of the sling up and tie them at the side (or hollow) of the neck
on the uninjured side (Figure 4-6).
Twist and tuck the corner of the sling at the elbow (Figure 4-7).
Apply a Swathe if Applicable (081-831-1034). You may use any large piece of
cloth, such as a soldier’s belt or pistol belt, to improvise a swathe. A swathe
is any band (a piece of cloth) or wrapping used to further immobilize a fracture.
When splints are unavailable, swathes, or a combination of swathes and slings
can be used to immobilize an extremity.
The swathe should not be placed directly on top of the
injury, but positioned either above and/or below the fracture site.
Apply swathes to the injured arm by wrapping the swathe over the injured arm,
around the casualty’s back and under the arm on the uninjured side. Tie the ends
on the uninjured side (Figure 4-8).
A swathe is applied to an injured leg by wrapping the swathe(s) around both legs
and securing it on the uninjured side.
k. Seek Medical Aid. Notify medical
personnel, watch closely for development of life-threatening conditions, and if
necessary, continue to evaluate the casualty.
Upper Extremity Fractures (081-831-1034)
Figures 4-9 through 4-16
show how to apply slings, splints, and cravats (swathes) to immobilize and support
fractures of the upper extremities. Although the padding is not visible in
some of the illustrations, it is always preferable to apply padding along the
injured part for the length of the splint and especially where it touches any
bony parts of the body.
to Lower Extremity Fractures