Looking inside the Human Body: How We Treat Broken Bones

Broken bone? How do we fix them?

 hallux - radiology

Body has swallowed Professor Hallux’s keys to the fridge, after hearing Nurse Nanobot tell him he needed more iron in his diet! Whoops!

Now Body isn’t very well and he’s in lots of pain! The only thing is, they need to know exactly where the keys are in Body’s body, and they need some cool gadgets to help. Professor Hallux, Nurse Nanobot and Body have made their way to the Imaging department at their local hospital.

There are different types of radiology technology to see inside your body when you’re feeling poorly, or if you’ve broken a bone. Let’s find out more!

X-rays are really helpful to locate small objects which have been swallowed by mistake, things like coins and beads.  But they aren’t just used to see if there’s something inside your body that shouldn’t be there, like some old keys. They’re useful to see if objects have penetrated your skin, such as sharp metal that might have broken off in a wound.

X-rays are very good at looking at bones.  Quite often you’ll see someone who has broken their arm or leg in the Imaging Department.  Now whilst X-rays help make with the diagnosis of a broken bone, they are also used to show how fractures are healing and that they are healing properly.

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Doctors call a break to a bone a ‘fracture’.

  • When a bone is fractured, it can make the surrounding area very swollen and painful. Sometimes bones may be poking through the skin – YUK!
  • If you ever have a fracture or think you might have a broken bone, it’s a good idea not to eat or drink anything because sometimes a little operation may be needed to make everything line up nice and straight to heal properly.

When you arrive at the Imaging Department, you might have to take off any metal things like watches or belts. You might also be asked to put on a hospital gown which might be a lot more comfortable.

A radiographer will position the part of your body with the suspected fracture under the X-ray machine and make sure everything is lined up properly.

  • They may use cushions to hold your body in place.
  • In some cases, they might place a metal shaped letter R or L near to you – this shows up clearly on the image and reminds the person checking the fracture if it is on the right or the left of the body or the right or left arm or leg, hand or foot. This can be very important if you have lots of fractures – especially as different fractures need different fixes. Radiologists don’t want to get anything mixed up! Just imagine if you ended up with a cast on the wrong leg!

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Once you’re in position, the radiographer will ask you to stay as still as you can.

  • In fact staying still is a really important part of having an X-ray. If you wriggle then the image will be all blurry!
  • Once you’re nice and still, the radiographer will go back to their computer, behind a big glass screen, and they’ll press a button.
  • The X-ray will be all over in just a second!
  • The radiographer may want to take a couple of views from different directions, a bit like front-on and side profile views but you don’t need to say cheese!

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Radiographers will stand behind a protective X-ray window when taking the images – each X-ray is a tiny dose of radiation, and as radiographers take dozens of X-ray images each day, they need to be protected as all those tiny amounts of radiation add up over time.  But don’t worry – they haven’t decided to go off for a cup of tea, and they can ALWAYS see you.

  • Sometimes radiographers will wear special clothing like aprons made of lead to protect them.
  • Anyway you’ll hardly have time to notice what they’re wearing. X-rays are normally very quick indeed.

Click here for a virtual tour of a real Imaging Department!

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