The total number of fractures of the upper and lower extremities treated in physician offices, emergency departments, and hospitals, while fluctuating from year to year, has varied between 12 million and 15 million from 1998 to 2010. Upper limb fractures, including those of the arm, forearm, wrist, hand, and fingers, have accounted for slightly more than one-half of all fractures, with a range of 52% to 59%. Fractures of the upper arm, or humerus, are the least common. In recent years, upper arm fractures have accounted for about 20% of total upper limb fractures. Fractures of the wrist, hand, and fingers occur slightly more often than fractures of the forearm.
Lower limb fractures, which include those of the hip and upper leg (femur), lower leg, ankle, foot, and toes, are reported in similar numbers to upper limb fractures, ranging from 11 million to 15 million. Between two-third and three-fourth of lower limb fractures occur in the ankle, foot, and toes. Breaks of the lower leg (tibia and fibula) are the least common overall.
The majority of fracture care episodes, 65% to 73%, occurred in a physician’s office. Fewer than one in ten fractures (8% or less) were treated with inpatient hospitalization in any given year. However, it is possible that initial care for a fracture was either at the ED or in a hospital admission, with follow-up visits associated with a physician’s office visit. It is, therefore, likely each individual fractures may have been associated with multiple episodes of care. (Reference Table 6A.2.3.1 PDF CSV and Table 6A.2.3.2 PDF CSV)