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A post-fracture bone infection

You fall from a ladder at work. Reaching out to catch yourself on the concrete floor, you shatter a bone in your arm. Initially, as you go to the hospital, you feel relieved that you at least avoided a head injury. This should be a fairly straightforward healing process, right?

It may be, but you can never feel too sure. Complications can arise. One of the most serious is a bone infection after a fracture. Though perhaps not common, it does happen, and it can make your recovery process "prolonged and complicated."

Why does it happen?

Most of the time, bone fractures do not lead to infections because you need bacteria to cause an infection. A fracture may be little more than an internal injury, with no exposure to those bacteria.

This is not always how it works, though. For instance, a compound fracture is when the bone pushes out through the skin. This can lead to excessive bleeding and is very dangerous. It also means that the skin, muscle and other tissues get opened up to the air and whatever contaminants are near you at the time of a fall. In a work environment, you could have a lot of bacteria close at hand. It's critical to clean the injury properly to remove them as soon as possible.

Another issue, even without a compound fracture, is when the doctors have to do surgery to repair the break. Bacteria can enter your body at that point. For instance, maybe the surgeon did not properly sterilize his or her tools before working on you. Hospitals are often a hotbed for bacteria because they are where sick and injured people congregate, and that puts you at risk.

What symptoms should you watch for?

The key, after the fracture, is to look for symptoms indicating a possible infection. If you see them, you must talk to your medical team right away. Potential symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Swelling
  • Pus pockets
  • Draining pus
  • Night sweats
  • A fever
  • Chills

With the physical symptoms around the area -- pain, redness, warmth and swelling -- you need to remember that some of this is natural. You did fracture a bone and then have surgery. These things happen as you heal. When you should worry is when they appear worse than expected or when you see them in conjunction with the more serious symptoms lower down on the list.

Your legal rights

Have you gotten injured on the job and endured a complex, long-term healing process? If so, make sure you know what your legal rights are in Colorado and what steps you can take.

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