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Nurs Clin North Am. 1991 Mar;26(1):113-32.

Orthopedic complications. Compartment syndrome, fat embolism syndrome, and venous thromboembolism.

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Northwest Hospital, Seattle, Washington.


Specialized education in the care of orthopedic patients includes an understanding of the common complications for which patients require monitoring. With a socioeconomic backdrop of decreasing hospital stays and prospective payment, patient care must be managed proactively. For all three complications presented, there are unique sets of risk factors that, when present, contribute to a high index of suspicion for morbidity. Clusters of symptoms have also been discussed representing the expected normal patterns. With this knowledge as a foundation, clinical application is essential to incorporate other salient aspects of individual situations. Nurses diagnose and treat human responses to health problems. The end result of human responses to injury or orthopedic conditions can be the development of complications. Stringent adherence to patient monitoring protocols can promote timely nursing interventions to prevent, minimize, or detect complications or treatment side effects. Although definitive treatment is often physician directed, nurses are in a key role to impact final patient outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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