Leg Fracture

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

A leg fracture is a break in any of the 3 long bones of your leg. The femur is the largest bone and goes from your hip to your knee. The fibula and tibia are the 2 bones in your lower leg that go from your knee to your ankle.


CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

  • A brace, cast, or splint may increase your risk for skin sores. Even with a cast or surgery, the bones in your leg may not heal properly. During surgery, the nerves, blood vessels, and tissues in your leg may be damaged. You may get an infection or have pain, numbness, or weakness in your leg after surgery. Decreased movement from traction may lead to skin sores or a lung infection. You may get a blood clot in your leg. The clot may travel to your lungs, heart, or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke.

  • Without treatment, the bones in your leg may not heal properly. If your fracture heals on its own, your leg may be deformed. You may not be able to move your leg as well as you did before your injury. You may have pain or lose feeling in your leg. You may have tissue damage and get a severe leg infection. Severe infections may lead to a bone infection, and you may need your leg amputated. These and other problems may be life-threatening.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.

  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.

  • Patient controlled analgesia: You may get pain medicine through an IV or an epidural line attached to a patient controlled analgesia (PCA) pump. Caregivers set the pump to let you give yourself small amounts of pain medicine when you push a button. Your pump may also give you a constant amount of medicine, in addition to the medicine that you give yourself. Let caregivers know if your pain is still bad even with the pain medicine.

  • Blood thinners: This medicine may be given to help prevent blood clots from forming in your leg.

  • Tetanus shot: This is a shot of medicine to prevent you from getting tetanus. You may need this if you have breaks in your skin from your injury. You should have a tetanus shot if you have not had one in the past 5 to 10 years.

Tests:

  • X-ray: An x-ray picture will be taken to check if the bones in your leg are being held together properly.

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your leg. The pictures may show broken bones or other leg injuries. You may be given dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

Treatment:

Treatment will depend on what kind of fracture you have and how bad it is. You may need any of the following:

  • Brace, cast, or splint: These may be put on your leg to decrease your leg movement and hold the broken bones in place. These devices may help decrease pain and prevent further bone damage.

  • Electrical stimulation: During electrical stimulation, electric currents are placed on your injured leg. The currents help increase the blood flow to your leg to help with healing.

  • Ultrasound therapy: Ultrasound treatments use sound waves directed into your leg. The sound waves work by helping the bones in your leg heal.

  • Surgery: If you have an open fracture, you may need debridement before your surgery. This is when your caregiver removes damaged and infected tissue and cleans your wound. Debridement is done to help prevent infection and improve healing. Surgery to fix your broken leg may include the following:

    • External fixation: Your caregiver will put screws through your skin and into your broken bones. The screws will be secured to a device outside of your leg. External fixation holds your bones together so they can heal. It is often done if you have severe tissue damage or many injuries. You may still need open surgery on your leg to fix injured areas after the external fixation is removed.

    • Open reduction and internal fixation: During internal fixation surgery, your caregiver will make an incision in your leg to straighten your broken bones. He will use screws and a metal plate, nails, wires, or rods to hold your broken bones together. This surgery will allow your bones to grow back together.

  • Traction: You may need traction when your broken bones are displaced. Traction pulls on the bones to put them back into place. A pin may be put in your bone or cast and hooked to the traction device. Weights are hung from the traction device to help pull the bones into the right position.

  • Vacuum assisted wound closure: This treatment may be needed if you have large wounds that cannot be closed while your fracture begins to heal. Your caregiver will place a special sponge over the open wound. He will then cover the sponge and connect it to a negative pressure machine. This machine will pull out extra fluid to decrease swelling and help the wound heal.

Physical therapy:

Your caregiver may have you start physical therapy while you are in the hospital. A physical therapist will help you with exercises to improve the movement of your leg. The exercises can also help make your leg bones and muscles stronger.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Leg Fracture (Inpatient Care)

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