A broken bone is bad enough, let alone a bone infection. An infection will prolong the healing process and can cause serious complications if you don’t get help immediately. Luckily, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get an infection from a broken bone. However, they can happen, especially in the case of an open fracture. The key is quick action when you’ve sustained an injury and seeing a doctor immediately. Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment for a broken bone infection.
Causes and Symptoms of a Broken Bone Infection
A bone infection can occur for a number of reasons. Essentially, it’s when harmful bacteria enter your body and make their way to your bone. This can happen by:
- Travelling through your bloodstream: If germs from another illness, such as pneumonia or even a bladder infection, enter the bloodstream, they can travel to a weakened spot in a bone. You may not have any symptoms for a while, which can be tricky for prompt treatment.
- Surgery: It’s highly unlikely to happen, but there are rare cases in which a bone infection occurs after surgery due to contamination.
- Injuries: From pricking your finger on a rosebush to a severe fracture break that pierces your skin, anything that causes your body to be vulnerable can put you at risk. This doesn’t mean you’re likely to develop an infection every time you get injured - but it is worth paying attention to the symptoms.
Without proper treatment in a reasonable time, complications can arise. This can vary from bone death (when the blood no longer circulates properly and the bone needs to be removed) to septic arthritis. It’s essential to pay attention to the symptoms of a bone infection if you’ve suffered from a broken bone.
Symptoms of a Bone Infection
When you’ve experienced a fracture where a bone pierces through your skin, known as an open fracture, you should be seeking medical attention immediately. Your doctor will be able to assess if you’re at risk for infection and clean the wound properly.
However, you can develop a bone infection, also known as osteomyelitis, during the healing process. It’s important to look out for the warning signs that include:
- Redness around the injury site.
- Pus around the wound.
- Fever, chills, or sweats.
Diagnosing a Bone Infection
Sometimes it can be hard to know if you have an infection when you’ve suffered from a broken bone. After all, tenderness, swelling, and pain may sound like perfectly normal symptoms with this type of injury. It’s important to keep your doctor in the loop of your health and healing process. If they suspect you may have an infection, they’ll want to perform an exam to look further. If you’ve had a persistent fever along with pain, this isn’t something to shrug off.
A common part of this process is a blood test. If you have an infection, the results will tell your doctor the type of bacteria that is causing the infection. Different bacteria will react better with some antibiotics than others. That’s why getting to the root cause is crucial before beginning treatment.
Treatment for a Broken Bone Infection
A bone infection can have a long healing process, taking 6-12 weeks to eliminate the infection fully. When you have an open fracture, you’re typically sent to an emergency room immediately, where your wound, bone, skin, and soft tissues are cleaned. You’ll be given antibiotics immediately to fight off any bacteria and possible infection during this time. You may be given different antibiotics once your blood test results come back that determine the type of bacteria you’re dealing with.
On occasion, surgery is required to fight the infection. This can happen when:
- You’ve developed an abscess that needs to be drained.
- The infection is pressing on an important area, such as the spinal cord.
- The bone has died, or the infected bone needs to be removed in order for the infection to heal.
In rare cases, amputation is needed as a last resort to stop the infection.
As long as you’ve started treatment within 3-5 days of an infection, you have a good chance of a complete cure. That’s why it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately and ask your doctor to check for infection if you suspect you’re at risk.
Fractures are more than just a painful experience - they can become a long-term inconvenience. Getting back to your usual routine is important, and the healing process plays a critical part in your journey. You need to focus on rest, but you can also find ways to help promote faster healing. A low-intensity pulsed ultrasound device can activate cell reproduction, protein expression, and enhance cellular behaviour - all of which leads to a 38% more rapid recovery. Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about better treatment options for fracture healing.
Have you ever suffered from a bone infection? What was the healing process like? Share your story with our readers in the comments below.
Broken femur and same day surgery Dec 27,2019 but despite 4 years of physio I still cant walk without 4 wheeler, 2 wheeler or cane. Surgeon now suggesting that I might try removal of intramedullary Nails (3) one inside femur to knee, a second nail up in to the socket and a third lower in the femur, Two subsequent falls didnt help the situation. Should I try he nails removal? I am 85 and had stomach cancer surgery and chemo in 2019 just before the femur surgery. I also had radiation treatment in 2022 for prostate cancer. I am in no pain until I try to walk without my devices.
Summerland BC Canada