When a bone breaks, the patient may be at immediate risk of acute complications. These include serious vascular or nerve injuries, which occur due to the location of the break, as well as significant blood loss, which can happen if the break injures a major blood vessel. Similarly, a break near a major organ may cause life-threatening distress, such as the compromised respiratory function that occasionally occurs as the result of a rib fracture.
Other immediate risks include fracture blisters, which develop when the surrounding skin attaches to the bone. These can interfere with proper healing and may prompt the development of infection. Physicians must be watchful for these and other injury-generated conditions, including compartment syndromes, which cause pain and potential tissue ischemia.
The most severe complications tend to occur soon after the break, but secondary issues are still possible as the bone heals. These include potentially dangerous infections as well as bone calcifications and complex regional pain syndrome. Bone calcifications primarily require pain management, while regional pain syndrome can be addressed by physiological and psychological therapy. Patients may also be at risk of bone fragments failing to join, a complex condition that may in some cases necessitate surgical intervention.
About the author:
Over the course of his career, orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Nabil Ebraheim has conducted extensive research into bone fracture and healing. Dr. Nabil Ebraheim currently serves as the chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and director of the orthopaedic trauma fellowship at the Medical University of Ohio, where he draws on an in-depth knowledge of fractures and potential complications.