When bones are displaced, unstable, or broken in multiple places, orthopedic surgery will sometimes be necessary to ensure the bone heals properly. Not all bones heal with a simple cast, splint, or sling. In open reduction/internal fixation (ORIF) surgery, an orthopedic surgeon uses a 2-step process to knit the bone fragments together. ORIF surgeries can help reduce pain, restore mobility, and realign broken bones. The “open reduction” starts with the surgeon using an incision to access the bone and realign it, so it heals properly. Next, the “internal fixation” involves piecing the bone fragments together with hardware such as pins, plates, rods, screws, or a combination of these. You will be under general anesthesia for ORIF surgery.
Do I Need ORIF Surgery?
Usually, you will need ORIF surgery on an urgent basis, although sometimes the orthopedic surgeon will wait until swelling around your fracture site goes down before doing the operation. Depending on the nature of your fracture and the risk of complications, you may have the surgery immediately upon admittance to an emergency room, or it may be scheduled in advance. Before surgery, you will likely need to have X-rays taken to assess the nature of the fracture, because most fractures that require ORIF surgery are quite complex and require detailed images.
Recovery from ORIF can be a lengthy process, depending on your age, overall health, your adherence to post-surgery rehabilitation, and the severity and location of your broken bone(s). Generally, full recovery takes at least 3 months to a year. Complete recovery can take longer if you develop complications or if you don’t follow up with your orthopedic surgeon’s prescription for physical therapy. During physical therapy, you will perform exercises to help you regain strength and mobility. Your physical therapist will also teach you home exercises and stretches so you can heal as quickly and safely as possible. It’s also important to continue with your check-ups and rehabilitation so your orthopedic surgeon can monitor your healing progress and take any necessary interventions if you have complications from ORIF surgery such as bleeding, increasing pain, infections, and so on.