Broken Bone - Surgery

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What about surgery for a broken bone?

The decision to operate on a fracture depends upon the type of fracture, whether it can heal in good alignment on its own, and whether other potential complications exist.

Sometimes patients are taken to the operating room for a closed reduction (resetting of the bone) and splinting of the fracture. When a fracture is markedly displaced and misaligned, it may be too painful to move or manipulated the bone without an anesthetic.

If it appears that the fracture is unstable and cannot be held in place and in good alignment with just a splint or cast, an open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) may be needed. An incision is made so that the bony pieces can be identified and aligned. Metal plates and screws, wires or rods may be used to stabilize the fracture. The hardware may be left in place forever or it may be there only temporarily until the fracture heals. Hip fractures almost always require ORIF to allow the patient to heal and regain the ability to walk.

Surgery may be required in situations where there is associated injury to arteries and nerves and they need to be repaired or decompressed.

Open fractures often have to go to the operating room to be washed out to prevent infection of the bone (osteomyelitis).

Return to Broken Bone (Types of Bone Fractures)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Gracie01, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: March 25

I fell off my front steps and landed with my left leg under me. I heard and felt a loud pop, but did not have any pain. I thought it was just sprained, so I walked up a flight of stairs. It really did not look swollen, but I went to the ER and was surprised to learn I had fractured my tibia (left side) and tore all the tendons on the right side of my ankle. It did not hurt until they splinted it, and then it was unbearable. It took four surgeries and almost 1 ½ years of on-weight-bearing therapy to heal, but now I am worried that I may have a stress fracture due to pain along my lower leg and ankle on my left side.

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Comment from: coachnick1, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: March 25

I am 41 years old. I was pitching a baseball for my men's baseball team. During the sixth inning, I threw a pitch and heard and felt my arm snap. The break was so loud that both teams could hear it from the dugout. As soon as it happened, it took a few seconds to register what had occurred, followed by tremendous pain. I had no control of my arm but could feel both bones rubbing. Initially, upon arriving to the emergency room, I was informed by the emergency room doctor that I would need surgery immediately. However, the emergency room surgeon said my fracture would heal on its own. After being shot up with two shots of morphine, I was sent home. Fortunately, I was able to see my doctor the following day and was in surgery within two hours after seeing him. As he informed me, surgery should have been done the night I went into the emergency room. It's been a month since my surgery and after having four screws placed in my arm, I work fine. However, I still have what is known as radial nerve palsy, but I'm improving every day.

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