What happens if you don’t fix a broken bone?

Answered by Cody Janus

If a broken bone is not properly fixed or treated, several complications can arise. These complications include malunion, nonunion, and bone infection.

Malunion occurs when the broken bones do not align correctly during the healing process. This can result in the bones healing in a crooked or misaligned position. Malunion can lead to functional problems, such as limited range of motion or difficulty in using the affected limb. It can also cause cosmetic issues, as the misaligned bones may result in visible deformities. In some cases, malunion may require additional surgeries or procedures to correct the alignment of the bones.

Nonunion is a condition where the broken bones fail to heal completely or at all. This can happen due to various reasons, including inadequate immobilization, poor blood supply to the area, or infection. Nonunion can cause ongoing pain and discomfort, as well as functional limitations. It may require additional interventions, such as bone grafts or the use of bone stimulators, to promote bone healing.

If a broken bone is an open fracture, meaning the bone breaks through the skin, there is an increased risk of developing a bone infection called osteomyelitis. When the bone is exposed to the external environment, bacteria can enter the site of the fracture and cause an infection. Osteomyelitis can lead to severe pain, swelling, and redness around the affected area. It may also cause fever and general illness symptoms. Treatment typically involves antibiotics and sometimes surgical intervention to remove infected tissue or promote drainage.

In addition to these complications, untreated broken bones can result in long-term functional impairments. The affected limb may have decreased strength, range of motion, and coordination. This can impact daily activities and quality of life. Chronic pain may also develop, particularly in cases of nonunion or malunion. Psychological effects, such as anxiety or depression, can also occur due to the limitations and challenges associated with an untreated broken bone.

It is important to note that the specific outcomes and risks associated with not treating a broken bone can vary depending on various factors, including the location and severity of the fracture, the individual’s overall health, and their ability to access timely and appropriate medical care.

Personal Experience: I have seen firsthand the consequences of not fixing a broken bone properly. A friend of mine had fractured his arm but didn’t seek medical attention right away. He assumed it would heal on its own. Unfortunately, due to the delay in treatment, the bones didn’t align correctly, resulting in malunion. He experienced ongoing pain and had difficulty using his arm for everyday activities. Eventually, he had to undergo surgery to correct the alignment and alleviate his symptoms. This experience highlighted the importance of seeking appropriate medical care for broken bones to avoid complications and ensure proper healing.