Can you get an infection from a fracture? The simple answer is yes. However, most broken bones do not lead to infections. In rare cases, fractures, particularly open fractures, can lead to infection and a long treatment and recovery process.
An open fracture, also called a compound fracture, is a fracture in which there is an open wound or break in the skin near the site of the broken bone and is a medical emergency. Immediate treatment is necessary to prevent infection. Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. OrthoIndy Trauma physicians are located at St.Vincent Indianapolis Level I Trauma Center.
Are infections common with a broken bone?
Although infection after a fracture is not common, they can occur after experiencing a broken bone due to bacteria entering the body during the injury event or surgical repair. For example, when a bone breaks through the skin or a wound opens down to the bone, bacteria can easily reach the bone and lead to infection. During these events, it’s extremely important to seek treatment immediately.
What are the signs of an infection?
- Increased pain, warmth, redness and swelling around the affected area
- An increasing amount of pus around the wound
- Fever, chills and night sweat
What happens if you get an infection?
Your doctor will see you in the office to diagnose the infection and assess the seriousness of the situation. In extreme cases, an MRI or CT scan may be necessary.
Treatment for infection after a fracture
Treatment depends on the location of the infection and injury. You will be started on antibiotics as soon as possible in the emergency room. Then, the wound will be cleaned during surgery and as much contamination will be removed from the skin, soft tissues and bone.
If you still have an infection after surgery, you may continue antibiotics, but additional surgeries may be necessary to clean out the infection and determine the type of bacteria.
Identifying the type of bacteria causing the infection will help your doctor choose the most effective antibiotics.
In extremely rare cases, amputation of the infected limb may be performed. This is only an option during a life-saving situation when a severe infection is uncontrollable.
How long does bone infection take to heal?
Most patients will have to take antibiotics for 6 to 12 weeks. A bone infection can be complicated to eliminate and it may require long-term treatment and several surgeries. In extreme cases, some patients have to take antibiotics for the rest of their life.
If an infection is successfully treated, most patients will recover without ongoing problems.
Learn more about trauma care at OrthoIndy.
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