Treatment for Your Open Fracture

Treatment for Your Open Fracture

It’s easy to assume that a broken bone is simply a broken bone. However, fractures can vary significantly depending on their severity and location. For example, hairline fractures often heal on their own with rest, but open fractures break the skin, requiring urgent and specialized medical attention.

Dr. Eric E. Johnson is an experienced orthopaedic trauma specialist located in Los Angeles, California. He can help with any type of fracture treatment, including dangerous breaks like open fractures. 

Here’s what sets these complex fractures apart.

The unique dangers of open fractures

Broken bones can cause numerous problems. However, when the bones penetrate your skin, it adds an extra layer of risk. These breaks, known as open or compound fractures, often occur during a high-impact trauma. In most cases, they involve the lower legs or extremities. 

Unfortunately, these breaks come with more complications than other breaks, including:

As a result, open fractures demand a different treatment strategy than closed fractures, which don’t break the skin.

Treating an open fracture

An open fracture needs prompt attention to avoid complications. In fact, it’s common for these breaks to receive surgical treatment within 6-12 hours of injury.

The first step in caring for an open fracture involves surgically cleaning the broken bones and irrigating the wound. Dr. Johnson usually performs the step in the operating room after administering anesthetics. Sometimes, he needs to make a larger incision at the injury site to clean tissue in the area more thoroughly. 

After cleaning the site, Dr. Johnson focuses on removing foreign materials that could contaminate the injury site — a process called “debridement.” These types of substances might include gravel, clothing, or dirt, along with nonviable tissue. 

When you have nonviable tissue, there’s typically inadequate blood supply to the area, meaning it is unlikely to survive and could put you at risk of infection.

Stabilizing an open fracture

After cleaning the area, Dr. Johnson gets to work putting the broken bones back into their ideal positions and stabilizing them so they can heal. This process also helps avoid additional tissue damage in the area.

Dr. Johnson uses a variety of methods to stabilize bones based on the location and severity of the break. However, they usually don’t involve standard techniques like internally placing screws, rods, or plates. That’s because those methods come with a high risk of bacterial contamination. Therefore, Dr. Johnson usually stabilizes open fractures using external fixation.

External fixation still uses pins and screws. However, they get secured outside of the body to an external frame composed of rods and clamps. This offers several advantages with open fractures, including:

Depending on your fracture, you could need additional procedures to ensure proper healing.

Administering antibiotics

In addition to surgical cleaning and bone stabilization, antibiotics play an important role in open fracture treatment. In most cases, these medications get administered as soon as possible, even before you enter the operating room.

After your surgery, you can usually expect to continue taking antibiotics for up to 72 hours, but this can be longer if infection develops or you have a specific type of infectious organism in your system.

With the right care, the prognosis of an open fracture is good. However, they do take longer to heal than other types of breaks.

To learn more about fracture treatment or care for a break that doesn’t seem to heal properly, call 424-309-1492 to schedule a consultation with Eric E. Johnson, MD, in Westwood, Los Angeles today.

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