Fractures of the Femur
The complications of a fractured femur vary depending on the location of the fracture and the severity of the break. The complications that can occur include:
- Infection: In the case of a fractured femur that results in bone breaking the skin, there is an increased risk of infection. This can be minimised with the appropriate use of antibiotics
- Bone healing Problems: If the bones are not well aligned or there is irritation to the bone due to infection, the healing process may be delayed and require further surgery
- Nerve damage: Nerve damage in femoral fractures is relatively rare but can lead to persistent numbness or weakness in the lower leg
- Compartment syndrome: This is a relatively rare complication of femoral fractures. It is the compression of nerves, blood vessels, and muscle inside a closed space (compartment) within the body. This occurs within the thigh when there is inflammation and bleeding due to the trauma associated with the fracture. If present, compartment syndrome requires an operation without delay.
- Surgical complications: These include failure of the hardware used to stabilise the bone or prominence of a piece of hardware leading to irritation and pain. Nerve damage is also a possible surgical complication.
Complications specific to the type of femoral fracture include:
- Distal femoral fracture: Due to the location of this type of fracture, the knee can be affected. There will often be stiffness of the knee which may resolve very slowly and may not fully resolve. Another way this type of fracture can affect the knee is by predisposing to osteoarthritis. This is most likely if the fracture line passes into the joint, disrupting the smooth layer of cartilage that lines the joint.
- Mid shaft fracture: This type of fracture can also affect the knee, but in a different way. Due to the movement of the femur when it breaks, there is often ligament damage to the knee which may require an operation in order to repair the damage. Mid shaft fractures in teenagers and children who are still growing may suffer leg length discrepancy where one leg is longer than the other. This can be due to the broken bone growing too much, or not enough, after the fracture.