The below article was penned by the bicycle accident attorneys, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers in Chicago, Illinois.
When a cycling accident causes a compound or open fracture, the road to recovery can be long for some accident victims. Depending on the type of break and several other factors, many, up to 60%, of compound fractures are unable to heal on their own. This means they need surgery and possibly bone grafting to allow the bones to grow back together.
Challenges With Treating Compound Fractures
Compound fractures are also called “open” fractures due to that fact that there is an open wound. The bone has broken and cut through the flesh and skin, exposing it to the elements. There is increased chance of infection due to the nature of the wound, making it dangerous to close or do surgery on. Compound fractures have a higher chance of “non-union” between the pieces of bone that fractured. This can mean several surgeries for the patient if there is difficulty in getting the bone to heal.
Depending on each individual fracture and patient, the orthopedic surgeon may decide on a few different surgical options. It depends on how much bone was lost and how large the gap is between the ends of the fractured bone.
- Screws inserted across the break to hold it together
- Steel plates screwed into the bone
- A rod or nail into the shaft of the bone and connected the other side with pins
- Bone grafting may be used with any surgery or on its own to promote bone growth between the fractured ends
There are risks of infection from the surgery itself and many compound fractures, even with bone grafting, can have difficulty healing. Most surgical treatments for fractures are successful and patients are healed in about 3 months. However, the hardware that is left in the body can cause some pain and the risk for arthritis down as the patient gets older is elevated in some surgeries that involve uneven joints.
New Breakthroughs In The Treatment Of Fractures
There are new treatments being studied to help in the healing of compound fractures that may make a difference for patients in the future. There are studies being conducted on different ways to improve the healing process and likelihood of the bone ends regenerating new bone between them. These include everything from stem cell research to worms with special glue that they produce.
- The University of North Carolina presented it findings last year that stem cell therapy enhanced with bone-growth hormone improved bone healing in animal studies
- Ultrasound shockwaves are being used to promote fracture healing in the UK
- The sandcastle worm emits a “glue” that is being studied as a way to hold fractures together within the body to promote healing
As some of these therapies come to fruition in the surgical world, there may be renewed hope for compound fracture victims to heal faster with less complications. In the mean time, cyclists who have these types of fractures may have months of surgery and recovery before they are ever able to ride again.