Can ORIF Save An Ankle?

Ankle injuries can happen anywhere at any time. Most injuries occur with a twist or roll of the ankle and result in simple sprains. But there are hundreds of thousands of fractures that happen yearly as well. The ankle consists of the ends of the tibia, fibula, and the talus. Should one or more of these bones break, surgery may be the best course of action. At this point, the doctor performs an open reduction, internal fixation procedure known as ORIF.

minnesota valley surgery center Surgery For An Ankle Fracture What Happens During An ORIF Procedure

Why would a patient need ORIF?

Most ankle fractures can be treated without surgery. For instance, someone can experience a minor hairline fracture or a non-displaced bone fracture. When this happens, doctors often use soft casts, encouraging rest and medication. However, there are instances where the bones break in multiple places. Some compound fractures even penetrate the skin, needing immediate treatment like an ORIF procedure.

Getting ready for surgery

ORIF procedures often happen in an emergency setting. The goal of the procedure is to safely and accurately restore the positioning of the bones. The surgery time varies and is based on the extent of the damage. The patient is often under general anesthesia during the procedure. The doctor uses x-rays and scans for guidance. With everything prepped, the surgeon begins the first step, the open reduction.

Open for serious business

Unfortunately, the severity of the injury calls for open surgery. The surgeon starts by making an incision along the side of the ankle closest to the broken bone. Two or more devices help keep the muscle and tissue apart to expose the fractured bone. The surgeon then removes any visible debris and uses a clamp to hold the broken bones in place. Support staff are usually present to monitor vitals like blood pressure and heart rate. With the bones set, the surgeon can move on to internal fixation.

Keeping it all together again

The surgeon uses internal fixation to reconnect the broken bones. Based on the injury's extent, the surgeon uses metal devices to keep the bones in place. For example, the surgeon can drill a metal screw to hold the bone in place. Then a small, slim metal plate is placed along the ankle and held in place with screws. In some cases, the surgeon uses wires, nails, or rods to keep the bones in place.

Heading into recovery

The internal fixation helps the bones to heal in the normal position. After the metal pieces are correctly in place, the doctor removes the clamps. The doctor will then treat any surrounding muscle and tissue before finally closing up the wound. The patient then moves into the recovery stage. The metal plate and screws are usually permanent, but there are rare cases where these are removed. Once the hospital discharges the patient, further recovery begins. The ankle can take several months to heal properly. Healing involves proper rest, diet, therapy, and medication.

Get life-changing surgery today

Surgical procedures, like ORIF, are not needed for all fractures. Yet, there are severe cases where the process can restore ankle stability. With any operation, there are risks, including infection, blood clots, or nerve damage. However, ORIF has high success and 89% satisfaction rates. ORIF is just the start of a long road to recovery. But without the procedure, patients will not be able to use the ankle the same way again. For more information, speak with an orthopedic specialist.

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