Complications with Healing Bones

Improperly healed bones can lead to painful infections and loss of movement

Broken bones hurt. And for some, the pain doesn’t stop after treatment. If you suffer complications from a broken bone, such as infection or immobility, you need expert orthopedic care -- fast.

Our orthopedics trauma doctors are part of a Bone Infection and Limb Salvage team. This group also includes specialists in infectious disease, plastic surgery, imaging, and general surgery. Together, we research and treat bone-related symptoms, infections, and deformities that can occur after bone trauma, including:

  • Blood poisoning
  • Bone deterioration
  • Chronic pain
  • Drainage from a wound
  • Fever
  • Limping

These symptoms can arise when you suffer a severe bone trauma or any bone trauma that isn’t treated properly.

How we repair improperly healed bones

Two bone-related problems can occur if a bone doesn’t heal properly. These are:

  • Nonunion fractures: This is when the sections of your broken bone can still be moved around six months after injury -- in other words, the pieces don’t reunite. Nonunion fractures can happen because of too much or too little motion at the site of the fracture, improper stabilizing (setting of the bone), infection, or inadequate blood supply.
  • Malunion and post-traumatic deformities: These deformities happen if your bone heals in the wrong position -- the broken sections fuse together in the wrong spot. They can result in shortened or crooked limbs.

To help repair these problems, our specialists use techniques including:

  • External fixators such as the Ilizarov apparatus, a metal device used to carefully stabilize the affected bone and train it to heal properly. We use this fixator on complex and open fractures.
  • Internal fixators, including intramedullary nails (metal rods we place inside the bone to keep it in position). We use these for breaks of long bones, such as bones in the arms or legs.
  • Bone grafting, which is when we transplant healthy bone tissue into a broken bone. This helps new bone tissue grow around implanted devices (like a joint replacement) and helps fix severely damaged bones.

Curing bone and joint infections

Skin and soft tissue infections can quickly become bone and joint infections. Without prompt treatment, these infections can become chronic.

Bone infections -- also known as osteomyelitis -- can happen when a fracture breaks the skin or after an operation. We typically remove any dead tissue and often need to perform plastic surgery or reconstruction in the affected area. If left untreated, bone infections can send bacteria to other areas of the body. Cancers may develop in chronic infection areas.

Joint infections, called septic arthritis, often require antibiotics and surgical drainage. Your doctor may have to repeatedly drain the joint to remove inflammatory cells.

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