Surgery for Femur Fracture
Surgery for my Broken Leg?
Almost everyone has either broken a bone at some point in their life or knows someone who has. When it comes to treatment for a femur fracture, there are several treatment options that the physician will consider. While some people may have their leg placed immobilized in a cast, some patients will require surgery to fix their broken leg. Before people undergo a surgical procedure, it’s not uncommon for patients to have questions, particularly if they are having surgery to repair a broken bone. Hopefully, some of these common questions will be answered below.
Why do I Even Need Surgery?
This is most people’s first question. When the physician says that they think a femur fracture will require surgery, there are several different facets they are considering.
First, they believe the fracture has been displaced. A non-displaced fracture means that the bones are cracked but still in the correct anatomical location. If the fracture has been displaced, the bones are fractured or completely broken and not in the correct location. Bones need to be in contact with each other in order to heal. If they aren’t in proper alignment, the breaks either will not heal at all or they will heal incorrectly, leading to even more problems.
Second, the patient could also have an open fracture. This means that the bone is protruding through the skin. Clearly, this bone is not in proper alignment and will require surgery to fix.
Finally, the surgeon could also believe that other structures in the vicinity have been injured. These could be muscles, blood vessels, or nerves. If any of these structures have been damaged, they will require surgery to fix. These are the most common reasons that someone might require surgery to repair a broken leg.
You Mentioned Other Structures Could Be At Risk?
When someone suffers a femur fracture, there is the risk that some of the other structures in the area could be damaged. For example, one of the largest arteries in the body runs near the femur through the thigh. This artery is called the femoral artery and if someone suffers a displaced fracture of the femur, a bone fragment could damage this artery. Because of its size, patients could lose a significant amount of blood very quickly. Any damage to this artery would constitute a medical emergency and patients would be rushed to the operating room once diagnosed.
There are also nerves in the area that could be damaged. One of the largest nerves in the body is called the femoral nerve, located near the femoral artery. This nerve and its branches help to provide motor function and sensation to other areas of the leg. If this nerve is damaged, patients could have difficulty moving their leg or picking up different sensations in that area. If the physician believes that this nerve has been compromised, they may order an MRI to get a better view of the nerve. If the nerve has been damaged, surgery may be necessary to repair it.
How Will Surgery Repair My Broken Bone?
If someone requires surgery to repair a broken leg, there are several different aspects to this surgical procedure that will need to take place. The name for the procedure is an open reduction and internal fixation.
First, an open reduction simply means that the surgeon is going to open the leg to put the bones back into their proper location. This is in contrast to a closed reduction where a physician puts the bones back into place without making any surgical incisions.
Second, internal fixation means that the surgeon will likely need to fixate the femur back into place using equipment such as screws and plates. While this may sound scary to some patients, people should rest assured knowing that these tools are used every day to repair a broken leg. Once the bones are placed in their proper location they will need to stay there to heal properly. This is why the screws and plates are necessary.
While the surgeon is putting the broken leg back together, he or she will also repair any other damaged structures in the area. This includes torn muscles, damaged nerves, or compromised blood vessels. Depending on the degree of damage, there may be multiple surgeons involved. It is normal to have different surgeons handle different parts of the case because every surgeon has their own area of expertise.
What are the Risks Involved with the Procedure?
Before undergoing any surgical procedure, every patient should be made aware of the risks involved in the operation. The risks of an open reduction and internal fixation of a femur fracture are similar to other bone fracture repair procedures.
Patients will be given general anesthesia to put them to sleep. This will immobilize them for the procedure and ensure that they don’t feel any pain. There is always a slight risk that patients will have an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. Patients should tell their surgeon if they or a family member have ever had an allergic reaction to anesthesia; however, the vast majority of patients have no complications.
There is also a risk of bleeding any time someone has surgery. Surgeons generally do an exceptional job controlling bleeding; however, patients will be asked to give permission to use a blood transfusion to replace lost blood if necessary. This could be required to save someone’s life if the blood loss becomes excessive. Most patients experience minimal blood loss because incisions are rarely made in blood vessels.
Finally, the last risk is damage to other structures in the area such as arteries and nerves. This is exceedingly rare; however, it is a risk of every surgical procedure. The surgeon will inform their patient regarding exact structures that might be damaged during the surgical procedure.
What’s the Prognosis?
Overall, the prognosis of surgical procedures to repair a broken leg is very good. The overwhelming majority of patients do just fine with their surgical procedure and regain full use of their leg.
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