How to Treat Open Fractures: First Aid Treatment

Open fractures occur when there is a wound caused by a broken bone piercing the skin.

Open fractures are more severe than closed fractures as there is a significant risk of infection in the exposed bone; this can lead to widespread infection or even the loss of a limb. Thankfully, open fractures are relatively rare as they require a lot of force to occur. However, that a fracture is open sometimes can go unnoticed; the bone may not always be visible in the wound. After an injury the muscles around a fracture go into spasm, and this can pull the exposed bone back underneath the skin. For this reason, you should assume any wound overlying a fracture is caused by an open fracture until proven otherwise.

Your main aim in first aid when dealing with an open fracture is to control any life-threatening bleeding and reduce the risk of infection. Place a sterile dressing over the wound or exposed bone as soon as possible to reduce the risk of the bone becoming contaminated. Open fractures are painful, and the victim is likely to be very distressed with the injury, so remain calm and provide reassurance until medical help arrives. All open fractures normally require surgery to thoroughly clean the injury and the administration of strong antibiotics to prevent a severe bone infection from developing.

Medical Terminology

The medical term for an open fracture is compound fracture.

First Aid Treatment for an Open Fracture

1. Call EMS.

2. Treat any severe bleeding; an open fracture can cause severe bleeding if the broken bone has damaged a large blood vessel.

3. Stabilize the injury to prevent movement of the fracture; further movement could worsen any bleeding.

4. Apply a sterile dressing over the wound to reduce the risk of infection.

5. Monitor the victim for shock and record vital signs until EMS arrives.