How bad can a bone fracture get?

There are many ways in which you can fracture a bone in your body including through falls, road traffic accidents and sports injuries etc. The most common fractures involve the clavicle (collarbone), the forearm (radius and ulna), the wrist, the ankle and the hip.

A broken bone leads to pain, loss of function and sometimes bleeding and injury around the site.

Treatment of a broken limb depends on the location and severity of the injury. A severely broken leg may require surgery to implant devices into the broken bone to maintain proper alignment during healing.

Common complications of bone fractures

1. Stunted growth

If during childhood a bone fracture affects both ends of the bone, there is a risk that the normal development of that bone may be affected, raising the risk of a subsequent deformity e.g. one limb becoming shorter or longer than the opposite limb.

2. Poor or delayed healing

A severe bone fracture may not heal quickly or completely. This is particularly common in an open fracture of your tibia because of lower blood flow to this bone.

3. Bone infection

If there is a break in the skin, bacteria can get in and infect the bone or bone marrow, which may lead to persistent infection.

4. Nerve damage

Sometimes nerves are stretched, bruised, or crushed when a bone is fractured. They are more likely to be torn when the skin is torn. Torn nerves do not heal on their own and may have to be repaired surgically.

5. Compartment syndrome

This neuromuscular condition causes pain, swelling and sometimes disability in muscles near the broken bone. This complication is more common with high-impact injuries, such as a car or motorcycle accident.

6. Arthritis

Fractures that extend into the joint and poor bone alignment can cause arthritis years later. Post-traumatic arthritis is caused by the wearing out of a joint that has had any kind of physical injury.

7. Bone death

The bones and bone marrow of the human body are made up of living cells that need a steady blood supply to stay healthy. If the bone loses its essential supply of blood it may die.


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