Fracture description (summary approach)

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 18 Jan 2020
This is a basic article for medical students and other non-radiologists

Fracture description allows an individual to accurately determine fracture type and communicate important information to colleagues without the use of the radiograph. Practicing fracture description is important and using a systematic approach may make this process less stressful.


This summary approach suggests that you have found a fracture!

  • describe the film
    • what type of radiograph are you looking at?
    • what views have you got to look at?
  • fracture type
    • first thing to mention when describing a fracture
    • complete (transverse, oblique, spiral, comminuted)
    • incomplete (buckle, greenstick)
  • fracture location
    • what bone
    • part of the bone (epiphysis, metaphysis, diaphysis, apophysis)
    • some bones have specific named parts, e.g. neck of femur
  • fracture displacement
    • is the bone offset, or pointing in the wrong direction
  • fracture complications
    • evidence of compound fracture (through the skin)
    • does the fracture enter the joint
    • is there another fracture (e.g. in paired bones)

ADVERTISEMENT: Supporters see fewer/no ads

Updating… Please wait.

 Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

 Thank you for updating your details.