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Fracture complications after treatment by traditional bone setters in Northern Ghana

Kuubiere B. Callistus, Abass Alhassan and Mustapha Issahaku

Traditional bonesetter (TBS) practice is a widely and accepted form of musculoskeletal injuries management in the Northern part of Ghana even though their methods of treatment is often associated with complications. These complications usually lead to referrals for orthodox Orthopaedic management making treatment complicated and costly sometimes leading to limb amputation compounding the fears of the people that the only treatment option by the Orthodox methods is amputation. This study sort to highlight and evaluate complications associated with bone fracture treatment by TBS in the Northern part of Ghana. This was a five years prospective study involving 230 patients presenting with complications after treatment by TBS to the Tania Specialist Orthopaedic Hospital in Tamale, Ghana. Patients who met the inclusion criteria were assessed and appropriate management procedures carried out. In all 156 males and 78 females representing 67.8% and 32.2% respectively with an age range of 7 months to 78 years were recruited. The most occurring complication among the subjects was mal-union fractures accounting for 31% of all complications followed by non-union fractures, 21%, infections, 17% and the least occurring complication was gangreneous body parts with 3%. The rate of non-union showed an increasing trend with age of the patients. Avascular necrosis was significantly associated with increasing age whereas infection was significantly common among subjects 30 years and below. In conclusion this study has highlighted several complications associated with the practice of TBS in Northern Ghana. Mal-union/non-unions and infections are the most common complications that patients are likely to suffer from as a result of fracture treatment by TBS. There is therefore the need for scientific training of TBS on how to prevent/ or manage these common complications associated with their treatment.

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