An open fracture is a broken bone that breaks through the skin. When a broken bone breaks through the skin, immediate treatment and an operation is often required to clean the area of the fracture. Due to the risks of infection, additional problems associated with the healing of the fracture can develop.
Open fractures are typically caused by high-energy injuries such as car crashes, falls, or sports injuries.
When someone suffers a broken bone, it is important for the bones to be properly aligned. One method of realignment is using a splint or cast. The length of time a person must wear a splint or cast depends on the severity of the injury.
When there is an open fracture, a person may require surgical repair of the bones. If the fracture is severe, rods, plates and screws may be required to repair the broken bones.
Once the fracture is secured, an accident victim may need to use crutches, a walker or wear a sling during the healing process.
Physical therapy is also necessary for some patients, depending on their age and physical condition. Pain medication and muscle relaxers are also prescribed to assist through the healing process.
When referring to a bone, the term "fracture" and "break" are the same. It is a misconception that a "break" is worse than a "fracture".
A fracture can occur as a result of a sudden impact, like in a car crash or fall; or because of continued pressure applied to the bone. There are various types of fractures, which include:
- Simple fracture - when the bone is broken into two pieces and separates.
- Hairline fracture - when the bone cracks but doesn't separate. They appear like "hairs" in an x ray.
- Comminuted Fracture - when the bone is broken into more than two pieces. Often, two major pieces and a smaller piece.
- Avulsion Fracture - when a portion of the bone is pulled away from the bone by a tendon.
- Greenstick fractures - when the bone develops tiny fissures without actually breaking into separate pieces.
- Compound fractures - when the bone breaks and punctures the skin. These are particularly complicated to treat and are dangerous because they create the possibility of infection.