If you ride a bicycle regularly, then you have probably experienced at least one narrow escape with a motor vehicle. As your heart beat increased and your adrenalin kicked in, you realized that you could have suffered serious injuries.

Even so, you probably didn’t consider the types of injuries you could suffer. One serious injury that is a very real possibility in a bicycle accident is an open fracture, also referred to as a compound fracture.

What is an open fracture?

In a traumatic even such as a bicycle versus car accident, it may not surprise you if you broke a bone in your leg or arm. However, you probably wouldn’t expect that break to cause the bone to pierce through your skin, which is an open fracture. The risks and treatments involved in this type of injury are different from a closed fracture.

As you can imagine, once exposed to the air, your bone and the surrounding tissue are vulnerable to bacteria and debris, which could lead to a life-threatening infection that could even get into the bone itself. You don’t have to be involved in a high-speed or particularly violent impact to suffer an open fracture. It just has to happen under the right conditions.

What is the treatment for an open fracture?

Immediate medical attention is necessary in order to limit the potential for infection. This wound requires surgery in order to clean out, or debride, the wound. The surgeon will then irrigate the site in order to clear out any debris such as clothing, dirt, gravel and more, along with any bacteria. Only then can the bone itself be set. The sooner this procedure can occur, the better the chances are that you will not contract an infection.

Depending on the severity of your open fracture, doctors may need to stabilize the bone both internally and externally. The amount of damage done will determine the length and extent of your recovery.

What are the possible complications of an open fracture?

Other than infection, your doctors will also need to watch for compartment syndrome in which pressure and swelling build up in the muscles to a dangerous level. Surgery will need to happen as quickly as possible to relieve the swelling and pressure before tissue begins to die.

The other most common complication is that the bone will not heal properly, called non-union. You may need additional surgeries in order to correct this problem.

Your recovery could be long and costly

Even if everything goes right, your recovery could take a significant amount of time, during which, you will incur substantial medical bills and lose income since you may not be able to work. If your injuries resulted from an accident in which you believe the driver of the motor vehicle to be at fault, you could pursue compensation for your losses through the filing of a personal injury claim in a California civil court.