Complications of Treatment of Musculoskeletal Injuries by Bone Setters

  • A Dada
  • S.O Giwa†
  • W Yinusa
  • M Ugbeye
  • S Gbadegesin
Keywords: Traditional Bone Setter, Fractures, Complications.


BACKGROUND: Traditional bone setters (TBS) have existed for decades in Nigeria and other countries. Their treatment methods often lead to several complications, the most dangerous being extremity gangrene which usually leads to proximal amputation.
OBJECTIVE: To apprise the Orthodox Practitioners of complications of musculoskeletal injuries treated by the bone setters, the factors that encourage patronage of TBS services and the outcome of the treatment of these complications by the orthodox practitioners.
METHODS: This was a one-year prospective study involving one hundred and twenty-one consecutive patients presenting with complications related to treatment of their musculoskeletal injuries by bone setters. The following data were obtained using observer-administered questionnaires viz; demography, details of initial injury, reasons for patronage of TBS, nature of treatment, estimated cost of treatment and disability of patients at presentation. The outcome of orthodox treatment of these complications was assessed at six months using the following parameters
– wound healing, bone union and use of prosthesis by the patients. RESULTS: One hundred and twenty-one patients with 155 musculoskeletal injuries and 168 complications of treatment by the TBS were seen; 75 (57%) were male and 52(43%) were female. The ages of the patients ranged from 6 weeks – 72 years (mean 29.49 years). The common complications of TBS treatment were malunion and non-union which each accounted for 27 (16.1%) cases. The major reasons for TBS patronage was the perceived low cost of treatment in 47(27.9%) and pressure from family and friends in 36 (25%) patients. The cost of treatment of the TBS
ranged from USD 18-380, whereas, at the Orthopaedic Hospital, it ranged from USD 34-98. At six months after orthodox surgery, 10(91%) of the patients who had amputation were yet to start using prosthesis, 3(23%) who had internal fixation failed to unite.
CONCLUSION: The commonest reason for patronage was the believed cheapness of the TBS services. However, this study showed that orthodox treatment is actually cheaper in most cases. Despite all the complications associated with their treatment, majority of the people still have a strong belief in their capability. A suggested solution will be the incorporation of the TBS into the healthcare system so that they could be better trained and controlled.

WAJM 2009; 28(1): 333–337.


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eISSN: 0189-160X