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Fractures (non-complex): assessment and management

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Last updated:17th Feb 2016

This guideline covers assessing and managing non-complex fractures that can be treated in the emergency department or orthopaedic clinic. It aims to improve practice so that people with fractures receive the care that they need without unnecessary tests and treatments.

The annual incidence of fractures in Britain is about 3.6% and the lifetime prevalence nearly 40%. Most of the 1.8 million fractures that occur in England each year are non-complex, and include a wide range of injuries over the complete age range from infancy to old age. Many different bones can be involved and the mechanisms of injury are many and varied. The range of treatment options is also wide. Because of this, non-complex fractures present an enormous challenge to the NHS.

Many non-complex fractures get better with minimal clinical intervention. But healthcare can overcomplicate matters, with unnecessary time and effort being expended on fractures that are likely to get better without treatment. However, some non-complex fractures can appear minor and be easily missed, but have the potential for a poor long-term outcome; scaphoid fracture is an example. So there is a need to achieve a balance between making sure that injuries needing treatment are not missed and treatment is avoided for injuries that are likely to get better on their own.

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