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External Fixators

General Information

When you suffer from a badly broken bone, an external fixation device may be implanted into the extremity to stabilize and re-align the bone for healing. The fixation device is comprised of a rod and pins or screws, which are attached to the bone. The screws on the outside of the extremity, connected to the rod, can be adjusted as necessary to ensure the bone stays properly aligned during treatment.

Reasons for Using an External Fixation Device

External fixation devices are used when bones are shattered, breaks in the bone are unstable, or joints are shattered or broken. Fractures and broken bones occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Direct blows to the bone
  • Falls
  • Car accidents
  • Severe twisting during a physical activity


A broken or shattered bone is usually diagnosed by using an x-ray.


In order to insert the device into the bones, the following procedure must take place:

  • A patient is placed under general anesthesia
  • Small holes are drilled into the bone, on either side of the fractured or broken area
  • Two pins, or more with severe breaks, are inserted into the holes and an external rod is attached to the pins
  • The pins are adjusted to create a proper alignment of the bone for satisfactory healing

What to Expect

Care of the skin around the pin sites, which describes the area where the pins are inserted into the flesh, is very important to prevent infection while the device is in place. The device and pin area needs to be dry at all times to prevent infection or damage to the device.

Cleaning of the pin area is required two times a day. The steps to cleaning the pin site include:

  • Washing your hands thoroughly before cleaning the pin area
  • Mixing an equal amount of saline solution and hydrogen peroxide together in a disposable container
  • Cleansing the area with a cotton swab, using the saline and hydrogen solution
  • Drying the entire area thoroughly with a cotton pad, as well as the device