Complications of Bone Fractures

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February 13, 2019
Edward Smith

Complications of Bone Fractures

Despite the ubiquity of broken bones, the complications of bone fractures can still be severe. Sometimes, these complications can lead to permanent health consequences that can last a lifetime. According to some relevant statistics published by the American Academy of Orthopedics:

  • Fractures account for just over 15 percent of all injuries to the musculoskeletal system in the United States.
  • Close to half of all bone fractures occur in the home.
  • In individuals who are under the age of 75, the most common type of broken bone is a wrist fracture involving either the radius or the ulna (or both).
  • In the elderly population, hip fractures are the most common type of broken bone.
  • Men are more likely to experience fractures during their youth; however, women are more likely to suffer bone fractures after menopause.
  • Each year, more than 3.5 million people visit the emergency department due to concerns for a bone fracture.

Bone fractures are a severe problem. However, the treatment involves more than just placing a cast. There are serious complications that can follow the development of bone fractures.

Malunion is a Serious Concern Following a Bone Fracture

One of the most serious and most common complications of a bone fracture is called malunion. Typically, after a broken bone, imaging is ordered to see if the broken limbs are displaced. If they are displaced, surgery is often needed to set them properly. It is important to set bones properly to avoid malunion. When bones heal incorrectly, this is called malunion. Some of the signs and symptoms of malunion include:

  • Chronic pain at the fracture site
  • A reduced degree of function or range of motion of the limb
  • Bruising long after the accident has occurred
  • Intermittent swelling of the injured area

If there is a concern for malunion, a physician will likely order repeat imaging to confirm that the bone has healed incorrectly. After this, surgery is typically required to rebreak the bone and set it properly. Then, casting is needed to allow the broken bone to heal correctly.

Watch YouTube Video: Joseph Borrelli Jr., M.D. Discusses Malunions and Nonunions. In the video below, Dr. Borrelli from Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital discusses the difference between malunions and nonunions and how they are treated.

Reinjury Can be Common with Broken Bones

Another common complication following wrist fractures, humerus fractures, and leg fractures is reinjury. Specifically, once a bone has been broken, there is a chance of rebreaking that same bone. Multiple studies have shown that bones that have been broken once often do not heal completely to their pre-injury state. A repeated impact to the bone could lead to a refracture that could necessitate a repeat treatment.

The Development of an Infection is a Major Concern

When a bone has been broken, there is also a chance that an infection could set in. This is an even greater risk if the fracture is open, meaning that the bone has broken through the skin. If the bones have broken through the skin, this creates a portal of entry for infection. An infection of the bone is termed osteomyelitis and typically requires intravenous antibiotics to eradicate. Furthermore, any fracture that requires surgery also carries with it a risk of infection.

The Development of Compartment Syndrome is an Emergency

Lastly, one of the most dangerous complications is called compartment syndrome. When a bone has been broken, such as in a femur fracture, the area often swells. This swelling can lead to compression of the nerves and blood vessels that run through the extremity. This is termed compartment syndrome. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Severe pain at the injury site
  • Diminished pulses in the area around the fracture
  • A pale appearance at the injury site
  • Numbness and tingling in the vicinity of the injury
  • The inability to move the affected area

These are all symptoms of compartment syndrome and constitute a surgical emergency. Without quick treatment, this could lead to limb death and require amputation.

Contacting an Injury Attorney

There are many different ways that someone can suffer a bone fracture. One of the most common is in a traumatic accident. Some of the most common examples include bicycle accidents, motor vehicle collisions, and even a slip and fall injury. If someone suffers a serious injury in an accident, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Sacramento.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyers

I’m Ed Smith, a Personal Injury Lawyer in Sacramento. Even though bone fractures are common, they can still lead to severe complications. Many of these can impact a family for the rest of their lives. If someone you care about has suffered bone fractures in an accident that led to serious complications, call me at your convenience at (800) 404-5400 or (916) 921-6400 for free, friendly legal advice.

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Complications of Bone Fractures:

Image Attribution: The picture used at the beginning of this post can be viewed in its original form on Pixabay. The image has been printed here with permission/ Complications of Bone Fractures.

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