Last night, my girlfriend and I watched the TV show The Blacklist. And all of a sudden, somebody on the screen’s bone is sticking out of their skin. They have a compound fracture, we are told, as if the image wasn’t telling enough. Instead of whimpering with my blanket over my head, I realized I have heard this phrase my entire life, but I don’t have a clue what it means.
So today I looked it up. A compound fracture is “a broken bone in which a part of the bone sticks out through the skin”. Okay, easy enough.
But wait, why is it called a compound fracture? As far as I know, “compound” has nothing to do with the skin. Could it just be that it’s a fracture/break of both the bone and the skin? That’s my best guess, and it doesn’t seem like I’ll be getting a definitive answer anytime soon, because…
I’d like to think that I have the cojones to look this up on Wikipedia, but I’m not a huge fan of pictures of this particular event. But I have to know. So I drag the window to the edge of my monitor and push it past, so that I can only see 3/4 of the window, and then I bravely pull up the Wikipedia page. I can’t see any pictures, but I can read all of the text. Score.
So a compound fracture is also known as an “open fracture.” I’m seeing a lot of terminology that is significantly less than pleasant: “Avulsion fracture: A fracture where a fragment of bone is separated from the main mass”, “Blowout fracture – a fracture of the walls or floor of the orbit”, “Comminuted fracture: A fracture in which the bone has broken into several pieces”. If that last one sounds interesting to you, there is a whole section of Fragment fractures.
This is already far more than I could ever care to learn about bone fractures. As I scroll down the page, there are fractures named after doctors: Le Fort fracture of skull, Chance fracture, Holdsworth fracture, Monteggia fracture. Of all the things in the world I’d like named after me, fractures are not one of them.
This perusal of the Wikipedia article also had em come across another word I should know but don’t: hematoma. It’s a bruise. There are even degrees of hematomas: from the small petechiae, to the bigger purpura, to the biggest ecchymosis, which is the common bruise.
Nonetheless, I will remember “compound fracture” and “hematoma” from here on out. But I don’t necessarily need to be reminded of what it looks like, thank you very much.