A bone, if fractured needs to be properly aligned and stabilized so that it unites and is strong enough to handle the body’s weight and movement. Earlier, Doctors relied on casts and splints from outside the body to support and stabilize the bone. The development of a surgical intervention to internally set and stabilize fractured bones using Implants is now widely practiced.
To treat a fracture, the bone fragments are first repositioned (reduced) into their normal alignment during the surgical procedure. Special implants Viz. plates, screws, nails, and wires hold them together.
Some of the advantages of such Internal fixation procedure are:
- shorter hospital stays,
- enables patients to return to his normal function faster, and
- reduces the incidence of nonunion (improper healing) and malunion (healing in improper position) of fractured bones.
The implants are made from stainless steel and titanium, which are durable and strong. In the case of joint replacement, these implants can also be made of cobalt and chrome alloy. The Implant material is compatible with the body and rarely cause an allergic reaction.
Most often used an implant for internal fixation is Screws. Although it is a simple device, there are various designs depending upon the type of fracture and place of use. Screws different sizes are used with bones of varying sizes. Screws may be used alone to hold a fracture and is used with plates, rods, or nails. After the bone unites, screws may be either left in place or removed.
Plates hold the broken pieces of bone together and work as an internal splint. Screws are used to fix it to the bone. After healing of the bone is complete, Plates may be left in place or may be removed.
Nails or Rods
Long bones in our body are hollow at its center. Inserting a rod or nail through the hollow center of the bone to hold the bone pieces together is adopted the technique in some fractures of the long bones. Screws at each end of the rod are used to keep the fracture from shortening or rotating and hold the rod in place until the fracture has healed. Rods and screws may be removed after healing is complete or left in the bone. This technique is commonly used to treat the fractures in the femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone) bone.
Wires are often used to pin the bones back together. They are often used to hold together pieces of bone that are too small to be fixed with screws. In many cases, they are used in conjunction with other forms of internal fixation, but they can be used alone to treat fractures of small bones, such as those found in the hand or foot. Wires are usually removed after a certain amount of time but maybe left in permanently for some fractures.
External fixation is often used to hold the bones together temporarily when the skin and muscles have been injured. An external fixator acts as a stabilizing frame to hold the broken bones in the proper position. In an external fixator, metal pins or screws are placed into the bone through small incisions into the skin and muscle. The pins and screws are attached to a frame outside the skin. Because pins are inserted into the bone, external fixators differ from casts and splints which rely solely on external support.
In many cases, external fixation is used as a temporary treatment for fractures. Because they are easily applied, external fixators are often put on when a patient has multiple injuries and is not yet ready for a longer surgery to fix the fracture. An external fixator provides good, temporary stability until the patient is healthy enough for the final surgery.
Other times, an external fixator can be used as the device to stabilize the bone until healing is complete.
There may be some inflammation or, less commonly, infection associated with the use of external fixators. This is typically managed with wound care and/or oral antibiotics.
Sterile conditions and advances in surgical techniques reduce but do not remove, the risk of infection when internal fixation is used. The severity of the fracture, its location, and the medical status of the patient must all be considered.
In addition, no technique is foolproof. The fracture may not heal properly or the plate or rod may break or deform. Although some media attention has focused on the possibility that cancer could develop near a long-term implant, there is little evidence documenting an actual cancer risk and much evidence against that possibility. Orthopaedic surgeons are continuing their research to develop improved methods for treating fractures.