Unbelievable Bacteria

One of the ways bacteria enters the body is through an open wound. When an open wound goes straight down to a fractured bone it is called and open fracture. When bacteria gains access to the deeper tissue beneath the open wound, the tissues become contaminated. Preoperative and prophylactic antibiotics are given to the patient to help decrease the infection rate with the hope of killing the bacteria in the contaminated field.

open fx bacteria

Additionally, a special treatment is done during an open fracture to further help prevent infection. This treatment consists of irrigating and washing the wound, as well as debridement of the dead tissue. Once the tissue has been adequately cleaned, the fracture needs to be reduced and stabilized. Three different ways to stabilize the fracture is with a plate, a rod, or an external fixator. The open wound is either left open for a variable amount of time and it is closed later on. At the time of wound closure, a skin graft will be needed. To promote healing of the fracture a bone graft will be needed usually four to six weeks after the injury.

skin graft

A bone graft is obtained from the pelvis as the pelvis has a large reserve of bone that can be utilized. The bone that is harvested is cut into pieces and then added to the fracture where needed. Despite the best care, a certain percentage of open fracture injuries will become infected. When the tissues become infected by bacteria, white blood cells are attracted to the infected site where the bacteria are multiplying and causing inflammation.

multiple bacteria

Bacteria multiply by replicating their DNA and then dividing into two identical bacterial cells. Due to the doubling of bacterial cells, the population of the bacteria grows rapidly. Once at the site of infection, the white blood cells begin to ingest the bacteria. These bacteria however, may survive and multiply within the white blood cells, causing the cells the burst. When this occurs, the bacteria is then released back into the tissues.

Other types of bacteria can also produce a thick capsule that prevents them from being engulfed. Engulfed bacteria may also produce toxins used to destroy cells that try to attack them. Bacteria can also hide in dead bone or bone cells. When this happens, antibiotics and white blood cells are unable to reach the bacteria, since the dead bone has no blood supply. In addition to the bacteria hiding in the bone, the bacteria grow rapidly.

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During this growth period, the bacteria communicate with one another through a process known as quorum sensing. Quorum sensing is the use of a chemical signals from one bacteria to another. As the bacterial population grows, the concentration of the chemical signal. Once the concentration of the chemical signal reaches a certain threshold, the bacteria then begin their attack. The bacteria will attack the tissues causing it to break down and die which can lead to an abscess formation. The abscess must be drained and evacuated, followed by antibiotic treatment.

bacteria communuity

Antibiotics can kill bacteria in several different ways. One way is by disrupting the cell wall which ruptures the bacteria. Another way, is by preventing DNA replication by blocking the unwinding of the DNA. A third way is by inhibiting the ribosomes from making proteins needed for the cellular structure and function. The last way is by blocking the enzymes that produce folate. Folate is needed for DNA synthesis, and without it the cell will die.

When hardware is used to stabilize the fracture, the story can become much more complex.

 

Stiff Knee

Extension contracture of the knee can result from different causes, but it usually occurs from trauma. The patient is unable to bend the knee to a functional level.

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Trauma will cause adhesions inside the knee, fibrosis, and shortening of the knee ligaments.

There will also be adhesions and shortening of the quadriceps muscles.

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Treatment

Treatment will usually begin with therapy. The first surgical option will include an arthroscopy and the release of any adhesions. The second surgical option that may be considered as a quadricepsplasty (Thompson or Judet) or a combination of treatments.

An example of a combination treatment plan would be a modified Judet quadricepsplasty with the release of the quadriceps muscle from the femur and a release of the adhesions that are located inside the knee.

After surgery the surgeon can usually achieve 90° plus flexion.

Finger Fractures

Fractures to the fingers and hands are common. Mallet finger is a deformity caused from a blow to the finger at the DIP joint. Patient is unable to straighten the DIP due to avulsion injury.

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Most often mallet finger injuries can be treated without surgery. Treatment is given by applying a splint to immobilize the fingertip in extension. Movement should be allowed in the PIP joint. Surgery may be necessary if more than 50% of the joint is involved or there is subluxation of the joint to restore the function of the extensor tendon.

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Middle and proximal phalangeal fractures:

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The normal relaxed cascade of the hand should form a straight alignment of the fingers.  When holding a relaxed cascade, the fingers should normally point towards the region of the scaphoid. Malrotation of the finger will cause the affected finger to deviate from its normal rotational direction.

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Treatment:

If there is no rotational deformity, the finger is treated by buddy taping the injured finger to the adjacent normal finger for 2-3 weeks. If rotational deformity is present, a digital block is given and the fracture is reduced in a volar splint. The MCP is held in 70 degrees of flexion for proximal phalanx fractures for 2-3 weeks. The splint holds the DIP and PIP in 0 degrees extension in middle phalanx fractures. Then buddy tape for additional 2 weeks.

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Metacarpal fractures:

The wrist should be immobilized in 20 degrees extension and the MCP in 60-70 degrees of flexion.

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The fingers should be kept free in order to check for rotation. Finger fractures means stiffness of the fingers.

Indication for surgery:

  • Rotational deformity
  • Open fracture
  • Multiple unstable fractures
  • Significant angulation or deformity.
  • Articular displacement
  • Metacarpal shortening especially with the middle and index fingers.

If the fracture is displaced or unstable, closed reduction and K-wire is an option for fixation.

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Plating is another option for fixation however it is rare.

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In phalanx fractures treated by ORIF, adhesions of the extensor tendon may occur. Patient may have decreased range of motion of the PIP which is called extrinsic tightness.

The patient will have greater passive PIP flexion with MP extension compared to when MP is flexed.

 

Sever’s Disease

Sever’s disease is a common cause of heel pain in children between the ages of 9 and 12 years. The pain is due to calcaneal apophysitis occurring due to repetitive and continuous traction on the calcaneus from the Achilles tendon. The apophysis is not part of a joint and has muscle or tendon attachments. This traction apophysitis may lead to stress fractures, pain and tenderness over the heel.

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Sever’s disease is similar to Osgood-schlatter disease of the tibial tubercle.

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Patients are usually young athletes presenting with heel pain that increases with activities. Upon examination there could be swelling, tenderness, warmth and/or redness on the back of the heel where the Achilles tendon inserts.

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Plain lateral X-rays may show sclerosis or fragmentation of the calcaneal tuberosity. Sclerosis is not specific for this condition.

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Fragmentation of the calcaneal tuberosity on the other hand, is more common in patients with Sever’s disease relative to the general population.

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Remember that Sever’s disease is a clinical diagnosis. X-rays may show other causes of pain such as tumors, fractures, infections or cysts. MRI is not commonly used, but can help rule out calcaneal stress fractures or osteomyelitis.

Sever’s disease is a self-limiting condition that usually resolves with time. Treatment usually consists of NSAID, Achilles tendon stretching exercises, and activity modifications and in severe condition a short leg walking cast can be used.