Complex Fractures in Tennessee Vehicle Accidents
The human body contains 206 bones, any of which may break in a motor vehicle crash. Some types of fractures can be especially difficult to treat and may take a year or longer to completely heal.
The medical costs associated with a car accident can be much more than the injured parties originally anticipated. If you’ve suffered a broken bone in a car crash, it’s important to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney, because you may be entitled to compensation that can help cover medical expenses and lost wages.
Don’t wait to ask for help. Call the law office of John R. Colvin today to request your free, no-obligation consultation: 1-931-962-1044.
A stable fracture is essentially a crack through the bone – the bones are still aligned and have barely shifted, and a doctor may be able to treat this injury without performing surgery. Fractures that occur in a car accident are usually more severe.
A comminuted fracture is when the bone shatters into three or more pieces. With this type of injury, a surgeon may need to use metal pins, plates, and rods to hold the bone in place while it heals. Those implants may remain in the body indefinitely, depending on the type of injury.
When a broken bone punctures the skin, that’s called a compound fracture. Both comminuted fractures and compound fractures may accompany other injuries, such as ligament and tendon damage, and compound fractures raise the risk of infection.
Recovery times vary. Advanced age and health conditions such as diabetes and vascular disease may prevent the bones from healing well. Surgeons may recommend a bone-grafting surgery if the fracture is slow to heal.
During recovery, due to inactivity and immobilization, injury victims lose muscle mass. So when the bone is healed, doctors prescribe physical therapy for the purpose of regaining strength and range of motion.
Lower Body Fractures
Airbags help protect occupants against head injuries and injuries to vital organs, but they don’t protect the lower body. Vehicle occupants may actually slide underneath an airbag if their seatbelt is loose or they’re unrestrained, increasing the risk of a forceful impact with the dashboard or floorboard. That impact may result in severe fractures in the legs or feet, such as:
- Pilon Fracture
This fracture occurs when the tibia (shin bone) and bones of the foot are compressed under forceful impact. The end of the tibia may shatter and, in some cases, the foot bones may break, too. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says surgeons have seen an increase in pilon fractures since airbags became standard in vehicles. About half of people with this fracture develop posttraumatic arthritis, which may necessitate additional surgery for treatment of pain and stiffness.
- Tibia/Fibula Fractures
Both of the long bones of the lower leg – the tibia and fibula – may break in car crashes. Treatment may require closed reduction, which is stabilizing/repositioning the bones without surgery; open reduction (surgical repositioning and stabilization); or internal fixation (using metal implants to hold the bone in place). Occasionally, a doctor will try a conservative closed-reduction treatment first, but if the bones don’t respond well, surgery may be necessary.
- Patellar Fractures
The patella (kneecap) can break when the knee hits the dashboard in a collision. These injuries can be difficult to treat if the kneecap shatters or shifts out of position. Surgeons use metal implants to hold the bone in place, but those implants may cause pain. If the pain is persistent, a surgeon may recommend a second surgery to remove the implants, but implants usually must remain in place for at least one year after surgery.
- Femur Fractures
A broken femur (thigh bone) is a major injury that may take up to six months to heal. The healing process may be longer for children. To ensure the bone stays immobilized, doctors may outfit children with a spica cast that covers the body from waist to ankle. In children, the leg may look crooked for up to three years, as the bone heals and straightens itself.
In the torso, back, and neck, fractures can cause damage to nerves, organs, and blood vessels. Some common fractures in this part of the body include:
- Spinal Fractures
Car accidents are the leading cause of spinal fractures, and 64 percent of those injuries occur in the lower back. Tissue and nerve damage, as well as partial or total paralysis, may occur if the fractured bone cuts the spinal cord.
- Pelvic Fractures
Many pelvic fractures are minor and do not require surgery. Three types of breaks, however, can be life-threatening: Open-book pelvis injury (when the pelvic bones break and open like a book), vertical shear, and lateral crush injuries may all damage or sever the large arteries in this part of the body and cause rapid blood loss.
- Rib Fractures
Treatment of rib fractures usually consists of pain management and rest – the ribs will generally heal on their own in six weeks. However, when patients can’t breathe well because of pain and therefore start breathing shallowly, they may develop pneumonia.
- Hip fracture
The danger of hip fractures is that they can cut off blood flow to the hip joint and cause hematomas (blood clots). In elderly people, a femoral neck hip fracture, which occurs about an inch or two from the hip joint, has a one-year mortality rate of 25 to 30 percent.
Other Fractures and Complications
Fractures of bones in the wrist or hand can be debilitating and take months to heal. If the force of a car accident is extreme, bones in the wrist may be crushed, and a surgeon may need to perform a bone graft to repair the injury.
The arms and legs contain groups of muscles, nerves and blood vessels called compartments. Acute compartment syndrome is when swelling or bleeding within a compartment creates pressure that can damage nerve and muscle cells, resulting in tissue death or permanent disability. In some cases, amputation may be necessary to prevent this condition from spreading.
Help for Injury Victims
If you suffered a fracture in a vehicle accident and believe the other driver was to blame, call the law office of John R. Colvin at 1-931-962-1044, or fill out our online form, to request your free, no-obligation consultation.