Life After an Open Fracture

Life After an Open Fracture

Bones are pretty sturdy, but they’re not invincible. They can handle running and jumping, but they’re no match for a head-on car collision or a tackle on the gridiron. Depending on the amount of force and the position of your bone at impact, your bones can suffer any of several types of fractures.

Sometimes, the force not only breaks the bone, it also pushes the broken end through your skin from the inside out. This is called an open fracture, and in addition to being extremely painful, it calls for different treatment and different recovery protocols.

At Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Dr. Bryan King and our team of bone fracture experts have many years of experience treating open fractures and can help you heal properly and recover successfully should you ever experience this type of injury. 

Here, we take a closer look at the recovery process after an open fracture and what you can expect during the days following your injury, and the long-term effects you may face.

Evaluating your fracture injury

Open fractures can occur after a simple fall, but they most frequently result from high-impact accidents, such as sports collisions, auto accidents, or violent altercations. If you have severe injuries, call 911 and seek emergency medical care right away.

Often, when open fractures occur, so do other injuries, so it’s important to have a thorough medical evaluation.

Dr. King assesses your open fracture to determine its severity and help him develop the most appropriate treatment plan. He evaluates your open fracture to determine the:

These variables give him critical information about your muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and skin, so he can treat all aspects of your injury. 

Immediate treatment following an open fracture

The reason open fractures are so complicated is that the breach in your skin provides an opening for bacteria to enter the wound. Dirt and debris from the site of the accident are obvious culprits, but bacteria can come from a seemingly clean environment as well, such as your clothing.

The first step in treating your open fracture is to thoroughly cleanse the wound to prevent infection. Dr. King debrides the area, removing all foreign particles and damaged tissues. He then irrigates it to ensure it’s free from contaminants.

Depending on the severity of your fracture, you may need internal fixation in the form of rods, screws, and/or plates to hold your bone fragments together as they heal. 

If your bone fragments aren’t yet suited for this treatment, you may require external fixation to stabilize your bones using pins and screws above and below your fracture. This allows us to care for the open wound while your bones stabilize to the point where they can benefit from internal fixation.

Long-term recovery from an open fracture 

It’s impossible to say how long it’ll take you to recover from an open fracture, because there are too many variables that affect the timeline. The severity of the fracture matters, as does the location. 

If your open fracture occurred in an area with little blood supply, such as your shin, it may take longer to heal than an open fracture in your thigh.

Your overall health and age play roles too. If you’re dealing with chronic conditions such as diabetes, or if you’re a smoker, you can expect a slower recovery time.

Expect to experience stiffness and weakness in your injured limb for several months after your open fracture injury. Physical therapy is critical to the healing process and in your ability to regain full function of your limb, but progress can feel slow and arduous.

In fact, studies show that life after an open fracture can impact your mental and emotional health too. Some patients struggle with emotional distress, negative body image, ongoing pain, limited mobility, inability to fully participate in work and hobbies, and an uncertainty about their future. 

Dr. King can help you keep a positive perspective on your recovery and your future. He monitors your progress and guides you through the process to ensure you’re making headway and working toward a goal. 

Open fractures can be traumatizing, but with the right care, you can heal completely and return to the activities you love. To learn more about bone fracture treatments, schedule an appointment by calling our office at 205-391-4440 today. 

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