If you’ve been involved in a car accident or victimized in a targeted attack, you may suffer serious injuries including broken bones. Some kinds of fractures are more dangerous than others: Compound fractures can require heavy medical care even if a patient doesn’t develop complications.What is a Compound Fracture?
A compound fracture, also referred to as an open fracture, refers to the combination of a broken bone and a nearby open wound. In some cases, the patient’s skin was broken by the bone; in others, a co-occurring trauma damaged the skin. These fractures are highly dangerous because infection is highly likely.
Doctors categorize compound fractures by the severity of the skin wound. They are split into three classes:
- Grade/Type I: Skin wound is clean and less than 1 cm long.
- Grade/Type II: Skin wound is more than 1 cm long, but surrounding tissue is not torn or heavily damaged.
- Grade/Type III: Skin wound includes extensive tissue damage, possibly including vessels and nerves OR fracture is segmental (meaning the bone is broken in more than once place, resulting in an unattached piece). Type III fractures are further subcategorized because the type of damage, and required treatments, still have wide variation.
- Type IIIa: The bone is still mostly covered by soft tissue, though it is highly damaged.
- Type IIIb: Soft tissue including the periosteum (connective tissue covering the bones) has been lost and the bone is exposed. These wounds are usually heavily contaminated.
- Type IIIc: Blood vessels have been extensively damaged; without urgent action to restore blood flow, the limb may be lost.
Even mild compound fractures require extensive treatment and could result in dangerous complications. If you or someone you love has suffered a compound fracture due to an accident, our team can advise you on whether a lawsuit can help recover compensation for medical expenses.
Reach out online or call us at (907) 277-0161 to set up a consultation.How are Compound Fractures Caused?
Each year, 6 million fractures affect patients in the U.S. Around 250,000 of them are compound fractures. Though causes vary, most of these fractures result from high-energy collisions like:
- Vehicular accidents
- Industrial accidents
- Falls from height
However, the accident itself doesn’t have to be catastrophic to cause these injuries: simple falls or sports collisions may also be to blame.What are the Symptoms of a Compound Fracture?
Broken bones are usually marked by the sudden onset of pain. To identify a break from another type of injury, patients should look for the following symptoms:
- Difficulty moving the injured area
- Difficulty using nearby joints
- Injured limb cannot bear weight
- Swelling or warmth
- Bruises and/or redness
- Injured body part is an abnormal shape
Compound fractures may be easier to identify because the broken bone often protrudes through the skin. No matter the cause of the skin laceration, though, if it is near a broken bone the injury will be considered an open fracture. Skin wounds that are not close to the break can be treated separately.How are Compound Fractures Treated?
The sooner a compound fracture can be treated the better, because open wounds are easily contaminated by bacteria. The first step a doctor will take is debridement—the removal of contamination and damaged tissue. They will then rinse the wound (“irrigate” it) with saline solution to ensure it is as clean as possible. Once proper steps have been taken to protect against infection, doctors will stabilize the bone and may close the wound (if small). If the wound is left open, it will be regularly cleaned. Large wounds may not heal by themselves; surgeons may transfer skin and muscle tissue from other parts of the body to cover them.What Complications Can Compound Fractures Cause?
64% of compound fractures are contaminated, putting them at high risk for infection. The site of the injury, the wait time before treatment, the type of contaminant, and lifestyle factors all affect a patient’s likelihood of bacteria multiplying to a dangerous amount. Possible complications include:
- Cellulitis (infection of the skin) or Osteomyelitis (infection of the bone)
- Nonunion (failure of the break to heal)
- Kidney failure (resulting from muscle death and breakdown)
- Muscle and nerve damage (if compartment syndrome swelling creates pressure in muscles)
- Ischemia (blockage of blood flow to limbs) and amputation
Some of these complications can be fully treated with extra attention; others result in lasting damage or disability. You may be able to get help with your medical bills and other related expenses if you’ve suffered a compound fracture (with or without complications) due to an accident or another party’s negligence.
Johnson Beard & Trueb, PC is here to help if you or a loved one was injured in a catastrophic accident. Recovering compensation from insurance or via a lawsuit isn’t easy—but we’re here to streamline the process. Our experienced team can take on the heavy lifting so you can focus on your recovery.
Do you have questions about a compound fracture lawsuit? Schedule a free consultation online or call (907) 277-0161 to speak to a lawyer today.