Encyclopedia Home / E / External Fixation of Bone Fractures - HealthCentral Encyclopedia

External Fixation of Bone Fractures

  • Definition

    External fixation involves the use of pins through the bone attached to a steel rod outside the limb. External fixation is used primarily to stabilize transverse fractures.


    Some limb fractures can be readily realigned by a physician and then firmly immobilized to allow healing, but complicated fractures may require surgery if the limb is to recover fully in both strength and sensitivity. Some fractures need the surgical application of traction. Surgery thus forms an essential part of fracture therapies.

    The initial aim of surgery is to realign the ends of bone at the break so that they exactly reconstitute the original bone. This may be done by:

    • External manipulation - the bone is pulled from the outer end. anesthesia may be used.
    • Open surgery performed under general anesthesia. In complicated fractures, additional surgical techniques will also be required to repair damage to associated tissues surrounding the break.

    The second aim of the physician is to retain the alignment by immobilizing the limb through the use of:

    • Plaster casts
    • Splints
    • External fixators, by which the bone fragments are secured to a strong external steel rod by means of steel pins.
    • Traction (the gentle but continuous application of weight). Traction is commonly applied through attachments to a plaster cast, although some methods may require additional minor surgery.

    Will surgery be required for the external fixation?

    What type of anesthesia will be used?

    How is the surgery performed?

    What can be expected after the surgery?

    How long is the hospital stay?

    How long will the pins and steel rods be required?

    How will the pins and steel rods be removed?