Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can you get an infection in your bones?"
I cracked a rib but didn't go to the doctor about it. I thought the pain had gone away but now the skin around where it happened is really sensitive and there is a different kind of pain, it is sharper than an ache. Could the bone be infected? Can this happen?
It sounds like you have been going through a lot lately! Given that you had an injury significant enough to have cracked a rib and now you are still having further symptoms from this injury, you should absolutely see your primary care physician right away. Cracked ribs do usually heal on their own, but depending upon the circumstances of your injury as well as your underlying health, it is possible to develop complications. First, in general terms it is possible for bones to become infected. This is not typical for a closed rib fracture, but bone infections do happen--when bacterial get into the blood from something else--and they can be very serious. In addition, depending upon the nature of a rib fracture, it is also possible for a small portal of entry to be introduced into the lining surround the lungs, making a patient more susceptible to pulmonary infections or abscesses. This can also cause significant pain and lead to other symptoms (fever, fatigue, weight loss). Finally, sharp pain near a rib can indicate an underlying problem with the lungs, including infections, pleuritis (inflammation), or even a pulmonary embolism (a clot in the lungs). All of these conditions may have nothing to do with the injury that led to the rib fracture, but in either case the most important thing to do now is to be evaluated by a physician who can consider not only the circumstances of your prior injury but also your current health status and physical exam.
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