What Are External Fixators?
External fixators are hardware used to hold broken bones together. Unlike internal fixation—pins, plates, screws and others—with external fixation part of the structure that supports the bone is outside the skin.
How External Fixators Are Applied
External fixation is minimally invasive, but the procedure usually requires general anesthesia. First, the surgeon drills holes into undamaged portions of the fractured bone and installs bolts into the holes. These bolts are connected to rods that are attached to their other end to a frame outside the skin.
Some fractures are stabilized with external fixators if there is severe swelling at the injury site, which can make surgery dangerous, or if severe swelling is anticipated. In selected injuries external fixation frames may be used until the fracture is healed, which can take weeks to months.
Advantages and Disadvantages
There are a number of benefits to using an external fixator for fracture care:
- Less chance of infection than internal fixators
- Less damage to the fractured bone’s blood supply
- More control over the area than noninvasive immobilization like slings and casts
- More easily adjusted than internal fixators
There are some drawbacks, however, which include:
- More maintenance and compliance is required
- The frame is bulky and cumbersome
- There is a chance of fracture at the hole sites once the rods are removed
- Though the risk of infection is lower than with internal fixation, the risk is still present
If you are seeking treatment for a fracture, schedule an appointment with one of our specialists today.
Request an Appointment
If you’d like to request an appointment, follow the link below and answer a few short questions. Someone will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you for choosing Summit Medical Group.