You may have always thought that if someone escaped a serious car crash with fractures, they were lucky. However, about a fifth of all fractures require multiple surgeries or other treatments.
Some fractures don’t heal properly despite these medical interventions. Sometimes, because of the severity or location of the break, they follow a person for the rest of their life. Let’s look at a few examples.
What is a malunion fracture?
This is a fracture where the bone doesn’t return to the correct position as it heals. For example, it may heal at an abnormal angle. This can be particularly debilitating if it involves a leg or even an arm because one leg or arm may end up shorter than the other.
Malunion fractures can cause mobility issues if they involve a knee or ankle. They often require additional surgery to realign, shorten or lengthen one or more bones.
How is a nonunion fracture different?
As its name implies, this is a fracture that doesn’t completely heal or, in some cases, doesn’t heal at all. Often, this happens if a person isn’t able to produce enough bone tissue to heal the fracture. It’s more likely to happen in older patients or those with poor blood flow or other conditions that affect their body’s natural healing processes.
Orthopedic surgeons can do things like insert plates to stabilize the bone and allow it to heal. Sometimes they’ll opt to graft part of a bone from another part of the patient’s body to help the fracture heal.
While it may seem like a fracture should eventually heal if it’s treated appropriately, as you can see here, that’s not always the case. Nonetheless, if you’re not given a good reason why the fracture hasn’t healed as it should, it’s not unreasonable to make sure that it’s not a case of medical negligence.
Why growth plate fractures in children are so serious
Growth plates are areas at the ends of children’s bones that are made of cartilage. They harden and become bone as they grow. This occurs at different rates in different kids. For example, some children do literally go through “growth spurts.” Typically, the process stops somewhere in the teen years.
If a growth plate is fractured in any kind of injurious event, it can shatter or completely disintegrate. That naturally affects the bone’s ability to grow to its intended length and shape. As with malunion and nonunion fractures, when a bone in the leg is involved, a child’s mobility can be seriously impaired – possibly into adulthood.
Most growth plate fractures, like other fractures, eventually heal. However, they often require at least one surgery and perhaps more as the child gets older and the rest of their bones are growing naturally. A growth plate fracture should be regularly monitored, because the extent of the impairment to bone growth can’t be known at the time of the fracture. Still, the younger a child is when the fracture occurs, the more likely they are to be seriously affected.
Don’t settle until you know the full extent of the injury
What all three of these things have in common is that they don’t follow the “normal” course of healing for a fracture. Further, you can’t predict the outcome.
It’s crucial to have the best possible orthopedic professionals from diagnosis through successive surgeries and other treatments to give the bones the best chance of returning to normal – or as close to normal as possible. That’s why you should never write off a fracture as a “minor” injury after a car crash or other event and try to settle as quickly as possible with the at-fault party’s insurer. Having experienced legal guidance can help ensure that you don’t settle too soon or for less money than you’ll need for long-term care, lost income and other damages.