When a bone heals incorrectly after a fracture, it can lead to a condition known as a malunion. This can result in the bone becoming deformed, with potential bending, twisting, or rotation, and in some cases, shortening of the affected limb.

Identifying the Symptoms of Malunion

Patients with a malunion fracture often experience a range of symptoms that include:

  • Persistent swelling
  • Pain, particularly when the limb is bearing weight or is under strain
  • Stiffness and discomfort in adjacent joints; for instance, a malunion in the femur (thighbone) may result in knee joint stiffness and pain
  • Limb length discrepancy, which can lead to lower back pain due to altered body mechanics

The Risks of Untreated Malunion

Ignoring a malunion fracture can have serious consequences, such as the progressive degeneration of the surrounding joints, which may culminate in a loss of function in the affected limb.

Diagnosing a Malunion Fracture

Accurate diagnosis is critical and typically involves:

  • An X-ray to confirm the presence of a malunion
  • A CT scan to assess the severity and specifics of the deformity, especially if surgery is being considered
  • An MRI to evaluate the condition of cartilage and ligaments when necessary

Approaches to Treatment

Surgical intervention is often the preferred treatment for a malunion. The procedure involves:

  • Re-fracturing or cutting the misaligned bone
  • Realignment to restore normal or near-normal anatomy
  • Lengthening of the bone if necessary to achieve a normal or acceptable limb length
  • The use of orthopaedic implants such as plates, screws, rods, or pins to stabilize the bone and maintain proper alignment

By addressing a malunion promptly and effectively, patients can look forward to a return to better function and reduced pain. It's essential for anyone experiencing the symptoms of a malunion to seek medical advice to explore their treatment options.