Fracture blisters occur on skin overlying a fractured bone, and fractures complicated by the development of overlying blisters remain a clinical dilemma in orthopedics.:43
Fracture blisters are tense vesicles or bullae that arise on markedly swollen skin directly overlying a fracture. Fracture blisters pop up in trauma patients occasionally. A fracture blister typically occurs near fractures where the skin has little subcutaneous tissue between it and bone. These include elbows, knees, ankles, and wrists. They tend to complicate fracture management because they interfere with splinting, casting, and incision planning for open reduction procedures. They can appear anytime within a few hours of injury to 2–3 weeks later.
These blisters are thought to be caused by shearing forces applied at the time of injury. There are two types described, based on their color: clear fluid and hemorrhagic. The difference lies in the level of the shear. Clear fluid blisters have separated within the epidermis, and hemorrhagic blisters separate at the dermal-epidermal junction. The clinical difference is healing time; clear blisters take about 12 days and hemorrhagic blisters heal in about 16 days. The decision to pop the blisters in order to treat the fracture, or wait for them to heal first usually hinges on the preferences of the orthopaedic surgeon as there is a lack of data on what treatment is ideal. Waiting delays care an average of 7 days, and longer for tibial plateau and calcaneal fractures. Operating immediately anecdotally increases wound infection rates.