What are Infected Fractures?
Infected fractures are broken or fractured bones infected by microorganisms such as bacteria.
After the fracture occurs, microorganisms can enter your body through a wound or cut and travel deep down to the bone. Although rare, such infections may also occur at the surgical site while repairing the fractures (fewer than 1%) or even after the fractures are healed (less common).
Signs and Symptoms
An infection after a fracture is experienced in the form of:
- Redness and swelling around the fractured area
- Excessive pain and formation of a small pus pocket
- Chills, night sweats, and occasional fever
Who is at Risk of Infected Fracture?
You are at higher risk of infected fractures if you presently have:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Immune deficiencies (such as HIV)
These diseases are known to weaken the immune system and therefore put you at greater risk of infection after the fractures occur.
Lifestyle choices also contribute significantly to the development of the condition. Foremost among them is the use of nicotine products or smoking. Other factors include poor nutrition or hygiene and morbid obesity.
It is often difficult for your doctor to diagnose an infection in a fracture, especially in one that is healing.
However, even if an infection is apparent, your doctor may order any of the following tests to confirm the infection:
- X-ray of the affected area
- CRP (C-reactive protein)
- WBC (white blood cell count)
- ESR (sedimentation rate)
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Tagged white blood cell scan
An infected fracture can be very hard to cure. The condition may require multiple trips to your doctor and long-term antibiotic treatment in addition to a series of surgeries. In rare cases, you may be required to take antibiotics for the rest of your life.
Your doctor will begin the treatment by administering antibiotics. This will be followed by a surgery to clean out the infection. The clean-out process includes:
- Getting rid of the pus
- Antibiotic delivery
If the infection is out of control, amputation of the infected part may be considered as a life-saving last resort.
Your recovery from the condition can be lengthy and complicated as infected fractures can take a long time to heal. However, you should make a full recovery with the appropriate treatment.