Copyright 2012 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Patient Story: Infection After Fracture

On October 1, 2011, Charles "Skip" Shank's life took an unexpected turn. Skip, a father and avid outdoorsman, was riding his motorcycle when he was suddenly cut off by a car. He tried to avoid a collision; however impact was inevitable.

The motorcycle accident crushed Skip's pelvis and severely fractured his right leg, leaving a gaping open wound. Immediately, he underwent surgery to stabilize his leg. Lisa Cannada, MD, an orthopaedic traumatologist at St. Louis University Hospital, used external fixation, a series of metal rods on the outside of his leg secured to the bone above and below the fracture, to attempt to stabilize the bone and save his leg.

Unfortunately, Skip's injury caused extensive damage to the muscle and soft tissue in his leg. His leg became infected and the soft tissue became necrotic. Just nine days after the accident, Dr. Cannada concluded that Skip's leg could not be spared. "When the tissue continued to die, it was determined that the best thing to do was amputate," Skip laments.

On October 10, 2011, Skip's leg was amputated below the knee. He spent the last five months in a wheelchair and is slowly learning to ambulate on crutches. He patiently endures both physical and occupational therapy and is looking forward to returning to a normal lifestyle.

Skip was recently able to return to his job part time and has started driving again. He will be fitted for a prosthetic leg that will allow him the freedoms he once enjoyed. "I hope that when I get my prosthesis, I can return to the same lifestyle as before the accident," he says.

Although his stump is healing nicely, Skip has developed heterotopic ossification (HO) around his knee joint. HO is the formation of bone in soft tissue. Posttraumatic HO is common and highly problematic. In some patients, HO is asymptomatic; but in others, the abnormal growth causes pain, stiffness, and requires surgical removal.

Skip hopes that continued musculoskeletal research will help future trauma patients have more favorable outcomes. "I feel that additional muscular and vascular research could have a major impact on the ability to save limbs."

Last reviewed: October 2012
AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS "Find an Orthopaedist" program on this website.
Copyright 2012 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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