Bone Fracture Repair

Written by Brian Krans | Published on July 18, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD


Bone fracture repair is a surgery to fix a broken bone using metal screws, pins, rods, or plates to hold the bone in place. It is also known as open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) surgery.

Why Bone Fracture Repair Is Done

Bone fracture repair is used when a broken bone does not heal properly with casting or splinting alone. Improper healing that requires ORIF surgery can occur in cases of compound fractures and fractures that involve joints, such as wrists and ankles.

The Risks of Bone Fracture Repair

All surgeries carry some risks, though complications from surgery are rare. These complications may include:

There will be some pain and swelling after the surgery. Icing, elevating, and resting the broken limb can help to reduce inflammation. Your doctor will also prescribe painkillers to ease your discomfort.

How to Prepare for Bone Fracture Repair

Tell your doctor about your medical history, including any chronic conditions or prior surgeries. Also tell your doctor about any medications you are taking or are allergic to, including over-the-counter medicines and supplements.

You may be given general anesthesia to put you to sleep during your surgery or local anesthesia to numb only the broken limb.

How Bone Fracture Repair Is Performed

Bone fracture repair surgery can take several hours. The surgeon will begin by making an incision in your skin above the fracture. Your skin and muscle will be pulled back so that the surgeon can access the broken bone.

The fractured bone is then set into place. Your surgeon may use metal screws, pins, rods, or plates to secure the bone in place. These can be either temporary or permanent.

If, during your original injury, your bone shattered into fragments, your doctor might opt for a bone graft. This procedure uses bone from a different part of your body or from a donor to replace the portions of bone that were lost.

Blood vessels that were damaged during your injury will be repaired during surgery.

When the broken bone has been set properly, your surgeon will close the incision wound with stitches or staples and wrap it in clean dressing. Your injured limb will most likely be put in a cast after the procedure is complete.

After Bone Fracture Repair

Immediately after the procedure, you will be taken to a recovery room. Here, hospital staff will monitor your blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and temperature. Depending on the extent of your injury and surgery, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight or for as long as a week.

Your doctor will give you instructions about how to care for your stitches, swelling, and soreness. He or she will tell you if and when you’ll need follow-up surgery to remove the bone pins or physical therapy to regain full use of your limb.

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