In orthopaedics, there are many potential complications that may either be life-threatening or limb-threatening. Fat embolism, pulmonary embolism, and even hemorrhage may be life-threatening. Acute compartment syndrome, infection, and malunion or nonunion of a fracture can lead to loss of a limb or impaired limb functioning. Pain, if unrelieved, may cause physical and psychosocial impairment and is a priority concern from the patient's perspective. This guide is designed for the orthopaedic care provider to serve as a quick reference when reviewing these complications. It may be used as an educational tool in a handout or an enlarged poster format as a reminder of what to assess, what diagnostic tests to anticipate, and what interventions are necessary in these situations. Promotion of understanding of orthopaedic complications is important for their prevention, early recognition, and effective treatment to promote positive patient outcomes.
Carol V. Harvey, MSN, APRN BC, CNS, ONC, Professor of Nursing, Orthopaedic Clinical Nurse Specialist, Cypress College, Department of Registered Nursing, Cypress, CA.