External Fixator

What is an external fixator?

When a bone or bones break (fracture), extra support may be needed to hold them in the proper position until they heal. An external fixator (FIX-ate-er) can provide this extra support. An external fixator is a system of pins, rods, and clamps. Most of the fixator is placed on the outside of the body to hold fractured bones in place while they heal.

When you have an external fixator

  • Keep your affected arm or leg raised above the level of your heart as often as possible. For example, you can prop up your arm or leg on pillows. This helps to reduce swelling.
  • Put ice packs on the affected area for the first 2 days. Apply ice for 15 minutes at a time. Re-apply ice every 1 to 2 hours while you are awake. Ice helps to reduce swelling and pain. Be sure to keep the pin sites dry while using ice.

If the fixator is on your arm:

  • Do not lift anything heavier than a fork, knife, or spoon with the affected arm.
  • Exercise your hand and fingers at least once an hour while you are awake. Make a tight fist, then fully straighten your fingers. You may need to help with the other hand. Repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times.
  • Exercise your shoulder at least 4 times a day by lifting your arm up over your head. This exercise is important to keep your shoulder from getting stiff.

If the fixator is on your leg:

  • Exercise your toes and leg at least once an hour while you are awake. Wiggle your toes 5 to 10 times. Then bend and straighten your leg 5 to 10 times, if the fixator allows you to bend your knee.

Dressing and pin care

Follow your doctor’s instructions for dressing and pin care.

 

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

________________________________________

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Any yellow or greenish drainage around the pins
  • Fever of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Numbness, tingling, or loss of feeling that does not go away when you raise the affected arm or leg above heart level
  • Increased pain that is not relieved by pain medicine
  • Redness or swelling at the pin sites

Follow-up appointment

Call your doctor’s office to make a follow-up appointment for:

 

Date: ____________________________________________________________________

Doctor’s name: ____________________________________________________________

Doctor’s phone number: ____________________________________________________

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com