External Fixation is a surgical treatment. It involves rods being screwed into a bone and exited from the body, and then attached to a stabilizing structure on the outside of the body. It is an alternative to internal fixation, where the components for providing stability are completely within the body of the patient.
Other than repairing severe or compound fractures, it can be used for treating or repairing other conditions, as well. It can help when surgeries for correcting bone malformations result in the shortening of a limb. It can be used to retain the integrity of bone structures as well, after a serious burn or an injury.
External fixation is used to provide stability to the bone and soft tissue after you undergo a serious break. However, it can also be applied in order to correct bone misalignment, restoring limb length, and for protecting soft tissue after a serious injury or burn.
The procedure is minimally invasive, but in most cases, it might require general anesthesia. First, your surgeon will be drilling holes in undamaged parts of your fractured bone, and then bolts will be installed into the holes.
These bolts are connected to rots attached to their other end to a frame that is outside the skin.
The main advantage of external fixation is that it can be applied quite quickly and easily. The risk of infection at the site of the fracture is quite minimal, but there is a small chance of infection where the rods were inserted through the skin.
The procedure is used in severe traumatic injuries since they allow rapid stabilization while also allowing access to soft tissues that might need treatment as well. This is more important in cases when there is significant damage to skin, nerves, muscle, or blood vessels.
The procedure also helps to ensure the ideal compression, extension, or neutralization of bone placement, while also allowing for movement of the nearby joints. This can not only aid in setting the bones correctly, but it also helps to minimize muscle atrophy, and edema, i.e. the buildup of excess fluid, caused by the immobilization of a limb.
External fixation does include a few risks which are:
- Pulmonary embolisms (PE)
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Aseptic loosening
- Loss of reduction
- Fracture or non-union of existing fracture