Fractures - Procedures

Bone fracture repair is surgery to fix a broken bone using plates, nails, screws, or pins. Bone grafts may be used to allow for proper healing or to speed the healing process.

While the patient is pain-free, using general or local anesthesia, a surgical cut is made over the fractured bone. The bone is placed in proper position. Screws, pins, or plates are attached to or placed in the bone temporarily or permanently. Or, long bones may be fixed with nails placed in the bone cavity.

Any disrupted blood vessels are tied off or burned (cauterized). If a lot of bone has been lost due to the fracture (especially if there is a gap between the broken bone ends), the surgeon may decide to do a bone graft. Bone grafting may be performed using the patient's own bone, usually taken from the hip. Or, the bone may be taken from a donor.

If bone grafting is not necessary, the fracture can be repaired by the following methods:

  • One or more screws may be inserted across the break to hold it.
  • A steel plate held by screws may be drilled into the bone.
  • A long, thick metal pin (sometimes called a rod or nail) with holes in it may be driven down the shaft of the bone from one end. Screws are then passed through the bone and through a hole in the pin.

In some cases, blood vessels and nerves are repaired with microsurgery. The opening in the skin is then closed. If the broken bone has pierced the skin, the bone ends need to be washed with sterile fluid in the operating room to prevent infection. The washing process may need to be repeated if the wound becomes infected.