Fracture fixation implant removal explained
Bone fractures can be difficult to heal. Fracture fixation surgery can help avoid deformity after an accident or injury. But sometimes the implant used has to be removed. Dr Dan Fick explains what’s involved.
What is fracture fixation implant removal?
Fracture fixation implant removal is the surgical removal of a piece of hardware that was used to help fix a bone fracture.
What is fracture fixation surgery?
Bone fractures can occur after an accident or injury, and can result in poor healing, deformity and long-term pain.
The goal of fracture fixation is to stabilise the fractured bone so it can heal quickly and well. This helps you to regain full function and complete mobility.
Fracture fixation can involve external fixation, which uses pins or wires outside the body, or internal fixation, which uses plates, screws or nails inside the body.
Who needs fracture fixation surgery?
Internal fracture fixation surgery may be recommended if your bone is broken in multiple places, or in a manner that compromises its future structural integrity. This involves using screws, nails or rods, pins or plates to realign, rebuild and support the bone.
Options for fixation of bone include plates, screws, wires, pins, nails or rods to hold the ends of the break together. Damaged soft tissues are usually repaired with stitches.
Types of fracture fixation implants
Nails or rods
Wires or pins
Modern fracture fixation techniques give you a good chance at regaining full function of your damaged limb or joint so you can get back to full mobility and resume your normal activities.
Risks and complications
Complete recovery may not be possible after some fractures, however, this is usually a lot better than leaving the fracture untreated. The more severe or extensive your injuries, the greater the risks.
Other risks include:
• damage to the blood vessels, tendons or nerves, which might result in an area of numbness
• joint stiffness, which can occur with fractures close to a joint
• post-traumatic arthritis, which may be triggered when the fracture disrupts the joint surface
• failure of the fixation, which may occur if the hardware used in the repair doesn’t have enough purchase in the bone
• failure to heal, or delayed bone healing
• fat embolism, where fat or marrow from the bone can enter the bloodstream and cause difficulties with breathing. It can be life-threatening, but is very rare
• complex regional pain syndrome, which is also rare, and involves extreme pain even with a light touch and may result in muscle wasting and joint stiffness.
When does a fracture fixation implant need to be removed?
In most cases, the implants used for fracture fixation surgery can stay in your body without causing any harm. However, if there’s an infection, you may need to have your implant removed. This is because it can be difficult to treat an infection that’s in or on an artificial surface like a metal, ceramic or plastic implant.
Another reason for removal would be pain and irritation at the site of the implant.