External fixation is a method that uses an outer metal rod and pins to hold a bone or bones in place until they heal. Surgical pins are inserted through the skin into the bone and held in place by bolts attached to the external metal rod. The external rod or device,commonly called the external fixator, is used to support the bone while it is healing. The surgical method of external fixation may be used to treat bone fractures whose alignment does not permit the use of a cast or in cases where the bone has been fractured in several places. External fixation may also be considered when a patient has multiple injuries and is not yet ready for surgery to fix the fracture. An external fixator provides strong temporary stability until the patient is healthy enough for surgery.
The External Fixation Procedure
The external fixation procedure is performed by an orthopedic surgeon while the patient is sedated under general anesthesia. Multiple holes are drilled into the uninjured parts of the bone,into which bolts, pins or rods are attached through the skin and muscle, to a rigid supporting structure. After the external fixator is inserted into place, there may be some inflammation, which is commonly treated with an anti-inflammatory medication. To avoid infection, antibiotics are also often prescribed.
An orthopedic surgeon determines which type of external fixator is most appropriate for each patient based on the severity of their injury and their overall health. External fixation is extremely efficient in promoting natural healing by stabilizing and aligning the bones, allowing the bones to heal properly.