Surgical Information

Fracture Repair Surgery

What is fracture repair surgery?

Bone fracture repair is surgery to fix a broken bone. The technique is known as open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF). It is performed to repair fractures that do not heal correctly with casting or splinting alone.

An external fixator applied to a broken thighbone.

During this procedure, the surgeon first repositions the bone fragments into their normal alignment, and then inserts an internal fixation device to hold the bones in place. Fixation devices include metal screws, rods or plates. They keep the bones stabilized and in an optimal position during and after the healing process.

If the fracture is especially severe, or the injury shattered the bone into fragments, a bone graft may be needed to speed the healing process. The surgeon uses bone from a different part of the body (known as an autograft) or from a cadaver donor (known as an allograft) to replace bone lost in the fracture.

Rarely, a fracture is so complex it cannot be repaired with internal fixation. In these cases, the surgeon uses special hardware to stabilize the fracture from the outside. This technique is known as open reduction and external fixation. After moving the bone fragments into their proper position, the surgeon secures the bones with surgical pins placed through the outside of the skin. The pins are then attached to an external metal frame.

A specially designed metal rod,
called an intramedullary nail,
provides strong fixation for this
thighbone fracture.
The broken bones of the forearm are held in position
by plates and screws while they heal.

When is surgery recommended?

It's important to treat fractures as soon as possible for proper healing. Treatment depends on the site and severity of the injury. It may include immobilization in a cast or splint, over-the-counter medications and physical therapy. If these methods can’t maintain adequate alignment, surgery is recommended.

What is the recovery time?

Recovery varies depending on the severity of the injury, the condition of the bone, and the age and overall health of the patient. ORIF is a surgical procedure, but the technique usually allows early mobility and faster healing. Broken bones take about four to eight weeks to heal, depending on the type and location of the break. Children’s bones tend to heal more quickly.