A broken bone´s severity can vary widely between different fractures and the contributing factors that lead to the injury. Many people suffer broken bones in car collisions, falls, and medical conditions, including osteomyelitis, where the bones are deprived of nutrients and minerals, like calcium.
While most broken bones will heal over time, receiving the best care ensures a complete recovery is possible. Typically, medical bills and medical care costs to repair and heal a broken bone are expensive, requiring months of multiple surgeries and long-term physical therapy.
A personal injury attorney specializing in bone injury accidents answered a few of the most broken bone FAQs (frequently asked questions) below. If you have further questions, reach out for a free consultation with a skilled attorney.
What Causes a Bone Fracture?
Fractures can break partially or entirely, causing significant pain, swelling, bleeding, bruising, deformity, inability to put weight on the affected bone, or immobility to eliminate movement. The most common causes of fractured bones include:
- Medical condition-associated weakened the bone – Specific medical conditions including infection, osteoporosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, and tumors might allow fractures to occur, as could chronic steroid use.
- Traumatic injury – Vehicle collisions, sports injuries, twisting traumas, falls, or fighting cause fractures.
- Overexertion – Overuse, repeated stress, and repetitive motions on bones can cause non-displaced hairline cracks (stress fractures).
Highly active children are prone to bone breaks, especially involving the legs and arms. Every type of fracture requires medical attention, preferably by an orthopedic physician that may recommend a reduction (setting), straightening, casting/splinting, and immobilization.
In many cases, surgical procedures are the only option to ensure that the bone can heal correctly.
What Kind of Doctor Treats Broken Bones?
Orthopedic surgeons typically treat fractures, especially those requiring surgical procedures to repair the fracture or replace missing bone material. Many fractures require rods, screws, plates, and braces to hold fragments and pieces of bone together during healing.
Fractures are concerning medical issues. Statistics show that over 6 million individuals suffer fractures each year in the United States. Many of these cases require surgical procedures to repair the damage, replace tissue, and splint/cast the injury to realign and immobilize the broken bone until it heals completely.
What Happens If You Leave Broken Bones Untreated?
If left untreated, a bone fracture can result in a delayed union or non-union bone break. A non-union injury will remain broken, causing increasing pain, tenderness, and swelling.
Delayed union fractures can take months or years longer to heal completely. Even with the best treatment, a severe complication can arise when the bone stability is compromised, the blood supply is restricted, or the area fails to heal due to a lack of necessary nutrients.
Can a Broken Bone Kill You?
While a broken bone might possibly kill the victim directly, it is infrequent, even if a broken rib punctured the lung. However, fractures can kill the victim indirectly based on the contributing factors to the patient´s health.
A hip fracture in older men and women with co-morbidities like osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and heart disease might dramatically affect their ability to ambulate.
Bedridden or wheelchair-bound senior citizens recovering from a broken hip are highly vulnerable to developing other common conditions, including blood clots, respiratory and cardiac problems, and most especially, bedsores (pressure wounds, pressure sores, pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers).
A fractured collar bone (clavicle) might potentially puncture a major neck blood vessel. Spinal cord damage, including a vertebral collapse, could immobilize the patient through paraplegia or quadriplegia, leading to many of the same problems as recovering from a broken hip bone.
Any broken bone that leads to infection might significantly impact the patient´s health and well-being. Comminuted fractures where the bone shatters into lots of pieces can be challenging or impossible to fix, leading to the need for amputation or severe health complications.
How Do Broken Bones Heal?
Bone healing is a complicated process that typically requires bracing, splinting, or casting, keeping the bone immobile during recovery. Many fractures become displaced that need to be reset through “reduction” or setting of the bone.
During the initial stage of healing, a blood clot forms around the fracture, protecting it while delivering new cells to start healing. Next, a callus will form to rejoin the broken, splintered, or fractured bone material together.
In time, the callus becomes stronger and harder. Typically, the individual continues to wear the splint, cast, or brace until the bone becomes stable, the blood supply has returned to the damaged tissues, and bone material becomes more robust due to the body supplying nutrients to the damaged area.
Reasons Why Broken Bones Do Not Heal?
Doctors refer to a non-healing fracture as a non-union break when the fractured pieces do not grow back together correctly. Typically, fractured bone pieces will begin rebuilding immediately when the injured area is stabilized and the bone is realigned or “set.”
In the weeks or months that follow, the body begins developing new bone material by increasing the blood flow supply and bringing nutrients to the injured area. However, a non-healing broken bone (non-union) fails to produce new tissue or does it so slowly that the doctor will diagnose the healing as a delayed union.
Doctors identify a malunited fracture as a broken bone that does not heal completely straight. Typically, broken bones that do not heal completely involve the lower leg, tibia, upper arm, or humerus.
How Long Does It Take for Broken Bones to Heal?
The process of healing a fracture entirely happens identically if the fracture occurred during an injury or surgical procedure. The length of time it takes to heal depends on various factors, including the patient´s co-morbidities like associated diabetes, infection, severe anemia, tobacco use, age, and medication use like prednisone, ibuprofen, aspirin, or another anti-inflammatory drug.
Typically, a common fracture might take 6 to 12 weeks to rebuild nearly completely. Adult bones tend to mend slower than a child´s bones. Other contributing factors that could extend or decrease the length of time to mend include the severity and location of the fracture and any surgical procedure required to set or fix the injured bone.
Usually, pain in the area would begin to diminish weeks before the break has healed and the area has been restored enough to continue its regular activity.
What Are the Typical Types of Bone Fractures?
Each type of bone fracture is caused by the impact against the bone, what happens during the break, and what caused the fracture.
The basic types of fractures include:
- Open fracture – Compound broken bone injuries come through the skin, often exposing tissue and muscle in the deep wound
- Closed fracture – Simple fractures do not come through the skin
- Partial fracture – An incomplete bone break
- Stable fracture – The bone´s broken ends do not move out of place while staying lined up
- Complete fracture – The bone breaks completely, separating into at least two pieces
- Displaced fracture – The bone´s gaps on the fractured ends usually requires surgical procedures to realign
What Is the Difference Between a Transverse and a Spiral Fracture?
The extent of broken bone injuries is based on numerous factors, including whether it is open (breaking through the skin), closed fracture, stable, partial, complete, or displaced. Additionally, how the bone breaks during the impact or stress identify the extent of the fracture in numerous ways, including:
- Transverse – The break occurred across a straight line. Typically, these injuries are the result of a traumatic event like an automobile accident or fall
- Spiral – The bone breaks as a spiral, typically on the body´s long bones, including the fibula, tibia, and femur
- Greenstick – Children more than adults develop greenstick fractures where a bending bone breaks, but not into separate pieces due to softer, flexible bones
- Stress – These hairline fractures look like tiny crack that is challenging to diagnose with X-rays. Stress fractures often develop through a repetitive motion like running or repeatedly lifting heavy objects
- Compression – Compression fractures appear flat and wide when the vertebrae collapse. These fractures are often the result of mineral deficiency from osteoporosis
- Oblique – The bone oblique fractures diagonally. Typically, oblique fractures occur on the long bones due to traumatic events like a fall, or sharp blow
- Impacted – A driving force crushing the bones from and to and fracture due to being jammed together
- Segmental – These fractures typically have floating bone material between the breaks. Segmental bone fractures typically occur on long bones in the legs and arms
- Comminuted – Typically, comminuted fractures break bones into three or more pieces, usually caused by automobile crashes or other events that cause high-impact trauma to bones
- Avulsion – An avulsion fracture can occur when a piece of the bone is ripped away by overexerting or twisting tendons and ligaments. Children are highly susceptible to avulsion fractures
Why Do Broken Bones Hurt?
A fractured bone can be extremely painful for various reasons, including bleeding in the area that causes edema (swelling), leading to pain. The fracture likely damaged pain fibers on the nerve endings that became irritated or bruised from the fracture.
Sometimes, a bone fracture will cause muscles in the area to spasm while holding the fractured fragments in place. The increasing spasm could cause severe pain.
How Do They Remove Pins from Broken Bones?
Orthopedic surgeons will implant metal into the fractured bones to repair the damaged area or reconstruct a damaged joint to keep the injured area in the proper position during healing. The implanted material might involve metal plates, pins, screws, or intramedullary rods placed in the bone cavity.
Some metal implants are never removed and do not cause any health consequences or harm. However, doctors may remove some implants, especially syndesmotic screws that hold fractured ankles before the body bears its weight on the joint.
In some cases, any metal implant irritates the injured area, causing pressure and pain that might require removal. The presence of infection often requires removing a plastic, ceramic, or mental implant to neutralize the affected area.
Removing a metal implant is complicated, especially if the material has been attached to the bone for some time. Implant removal has risks where the individual may react to anesthesia, suffer nerve damage, or develop an infection.
Implant removal through a surgical procedure could weaken bones while not alleviating pain. The surgeon will likely damage some bone material and tissue when removing the implant.
Sometimes, the implant may be deep inside bone tissue, making it challenging to locate or impossible to keep intact during the removal. In some extreme cases, a portion of the implant material is left behind.
How to Prevent Broken Bones?
Many fractured bones are the result of falling at nearly any age. However, the elderly are most susceptible to fractures, and those highly active in sports activities or involved in vehicle accidents.
- Indoor and outdoor safety tips to avoid falling resulting in fractures include:
- Wear rubber soles with traction during adverse weather conditions
- Keep every room clutter-free
- Avoid highly polished tile and marble floors
- Remove any wires, telephone cords, and electrical wires across walkways and driveways
- Do not use broken handrails for stability when walking up and down stairwells
- Use a rubber bath mat when showering
- Take a bone marrow density (BMD) test to identify any bone loss in the spine and hip
- Exercise regularly
Patients highly susceptible to bone fractures can take some precautionary measures to prevent injuries. In some cases, individuals can inherit brittle bone disease where the body cannot produce the collagen protein necessary for strengthening bones.
What Should a Nurse Do with a Broken Bone Injury?
Typically, an individual presenting in the emergency room with fracture injuries requires an immediate diagnosis, assessment, and treatment. Sometimes, the doctor will recommend an X-ray examination followed by an MRI scan, computed tomography (CT) scan, or bone scan.
The individual may undergo an arteriogram if the doctor suspects occult vascular damage. In the emergency room, the nurse will likely help immobilize the fractured bone area. The doctor may order splinting to prevent the body from moving and causing further damage by bone fragments.
A sterile dressing is likely applied to an open injury. The nurse will likely conduct a full assessment of the injured area and identify the bone break as a:
- Open fracture – Open fractures usually require an assessment for gangrene, tetanus, and osteomyelitis
- Closed fracture – Typically, these bone fractures did not break through the skin at the fracture site.
The nurse will gather assessment data to identify any acute pain related to muscle spasms, soft tissue injuries, or bone fractures. The nurse will also look for impaired physical mobility caused by the bone break and the potential risk of infection where the fracture pierced the skin.
After the bone has been set and placed in a cast or splint, the nurse will instruct the injured victim to control their pain and edema (swelling). The nurse may offer exercises for maintaining health and increasing muscle strength when using assisted devices like crutches.
The nurse will inform the patient about managing their injury and the need for wound irrigation and debridement (cutting away dead tissue). The nurse will look for any signs of infection and evaluate the individual to determine that their pain medication has worked.
What is the Average Settlement for Broken Wrists in Car Accidents?
Vehicle and car accident victims suffering from fractured bones are likely entitled to receive financial compensation for their injuries to cover immediate medical treatment and past medical expenses and medical bills. Common fractures include fractured wrists, hands, arms, necks, spinal cords, skulls, legs, ankles, and feet.
Many bones fractured in car accidents require surgical procedures. Often, the bone must be set, or inserted rods and pins to ensure that all the fractured pieces mend correctly back in place. Some surgeries, including open reduction internal fixation procedures, may cost up to $150,000 or more.
The value of cases involving bones broken in a car crash varies between states. In Illinois, a negotiated settlement involving a broken wrist without the need for a surgical procedure can reach $60,000 or more. With a surgical procedure, a fractured wrist settlement could reach $160,000 or higher.
The type of fractured wrists will determine the car crash case´s value, as specific breaks are more challenging to treat, mend, and manage. The list below is itemized for an auto accident settled for the least amount to the most. They include:
- Simple hairline break
- Ulnar styloid bone break
- Extra-articular fracture
- Comminuted fracture
- Intra-articular fracture
- Displaced fracture
- Open fracture
The sudden impact in motor vehicles and car crashes can crush the arms, legs, feet, hands, or rib cage. Open fractures often result in significant nerve damage requiring immediate surgery when the bone sticks out from the skin.
What Are the Three Principles of Fracture Management?
The orthopedic surgeon helping an individual with a broken bone will follow the three principles of fracture management that include:
- Regaining and maintaining the injured parts’ normal alignment
- Regaining the normal function of the broken bone
- Allowing the injury to as quickly as possible
The doctor will immobilize the patient´s injured area and set the broken bone (reduction) before the rehabilitation process. Immobilization will include splinting, casting, or bracing the affected area.
Rehabilitation will help the damaged area regain strength and normal function. Typically, rehabilitation involves the Physical Therapy Department developing a specialized rehabilitation plan for the individual who works in conjunction with physical therapists.
Is a Broken Bone Stronger Than It Was Before?
In the short term, the bone will be stronger than it was before it broke. During the healing process, the developing callus creates extremely strong material to protect the fractured area.
In time, the callus diminishes, leaving the newly formed bone tissue behind. In the years that follow the injury, the damaged area that was broken and repaired will be no stronger than it was before it broke.
Are There Any Complications in Bone Healing?
Like any traumatic impact on the body, orthopedic trauma can cause severe complications during the healing process or afterward. Nearly all broken bones will heal as expected.
However, some patients experience severe complications that might include:
- Osteomyelitis (bone infection) – An infectious bacteria can develop during a traumatic event, including when broken bones are set during the surgical procedure.
- Malunions (bone deformities) – Misaligned broken bones from an untreated break or surgical malpractice leave the bone in an abnormal position where the area deforms, and the wound heals out of alignment.
- Non-union and delayed union fractures – Any complication during the healing process of broken bones will cause a delayed union or a non-union fracture where the bone never heals.
There are often early warning signs of healing broken bones complications that include chronic pain, swelling, fever, wound drainage, and limping that could last a lifetime without treatment.
Many patients are prescribed antibiotics to treat a bone infection, internal/external fixators including stabilizing screws, plates, rods, bars, or bone grafting where an orthopedist surgically transplants healthy bone material to rebuild or replace bones, bone loss, or disease bones.
Should I Hire a Personal Injury Law Firm to Handle My Car Accident Case?
Car accident injury lawyers can file a compensation claim on your behalf to ensure you are compensated for your fractures and damages including the cost of future medical care and treatment, lost wages, medical bills, future lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
Injury lawyers can build a broken bones case to hold those responsible for causing your injuries and fractures financially accountable. Let us protect your legal rights if you were seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident. Call our legal team today for a free consultation to discuss your auto accident lawsuit.
Have More Broken Bone FAQ’s?
Contact our law firm today for a free consultation with an attorney who has experience prosecuting broken bone injury cases. We can answer any of your questions and address your legal rights and options for recovery.