Femur Fracture - Medical Malpractice Lawyer
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Fracture of the Femur Overview
The femur is also called the thighbone because it makes up the length of the thigh. The femur is one of the strongest bones of the body so it takes a great deal of force to break it such as falls from great heights and automobile accidents. The long part of the bone is known as the femoral shaft. If a fracture occurs anywhere along the shaft, it is called a femur fracture.
There are different types of femur fractures. There is a transverse fracture, which goes straight across the bone, the oblique fracture that has an angulated break, and the spiral fracture, which spirals along the shaft. A comminuted fracture occurs when many pieces of bone are separated from the main bone and an open fracture, in which fractured pieces are sticking out of the skin.
The main cause of a femoral shaft fracture is a high energy impact such as a motor vehicle crash or a motorcycle crash. Some patients get it via a gunshot wound, a fall from a great height or a pedestrian automobile accident. Older people can get a femoral fracture from a more minor fall. When these fractures happen, there is often severe pain that is immediate with an inability to put weight on the bad leg. Deformities are likely with one leg shorter than another.
The doctor will check for normal circulation and nerve supply to the lower leg. He or she will also look for obvious deformities, leg shortening, skin breaks, bruising and bony pieces showing up just underneath the skin. The doctor will then do plain film x-rays of the thigh. In some cases, a CT scan of the legs will more directly show which parts of the bone are broken.
The femoral shaft fracture will not heal on its own so there will need to be treated. Some simply need nonsurgical treatment, which involves casting. It can usually only be done successfully in very small children. Everyone else needs surgery. It needs to be done relatively urgently if the fracture is open. If it is closed, there is less urgency and the leg can be placed in traction to prevent problems trying to get the leg its normal length at the time of surgery and to keep bones aligned.
A patient can have external fixation. This employs metal pins and screws that are connected to the skin outside and can stabilize the femur fracture, using a bar that runs on either side of the fracture point. External fixation is usually temporary but is a good measure for those people who are multiply traumatized and can’t tolerate a major surgery yet.
The major surgery for femur fractures is intramedullary nailing. This involves dropping a rod down the bone marrow compartment of the femur bone, connecting the upper and lower parts of the femur fracture. It takes a small incision and the end result is a strong and sturdy repair. The nails are usually made with titanium, which is especially strong. Plates and screws can be used as well. It all depends on the skill and preferences of the surgeon.
It takes 4-6 months to completely heal a femur fracture and some can take longer. While leg movement is quickly encouraged, weight bearing is discouraged for several months. The bone will have had to heal to some extent before the weight can be borne on the leg. Crutches or a walker will need to be used until you are steady on your feet.
There are complications to femoral shaft fractures. These include compartment syndrome from too much swelling on the thigh, lacerated nerves and vessels can happen because of shards of bone, and open fractures can become infected, in spite of good treatment.
There can be a number of surgical complications. These include blood vessel and nerve injury, fat embolism, blood clots to deep veins, infection, misalignment of fracture ends, irritation from hardware and delayed union or nonunion of fracture ends.
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