Open Reduction And Internal Fixation Of An Arm Fracture

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) of an arm fracture is surgery to fix a broken arm bone. This may include the humerus (upper arm bone), radius, or ulna (lower arm bones). Medical plates, screws, pins, or wires will be used to hold the bones in place while they heal.

AFTER YOU LEAVE:

Medicines:

  • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.

  • Blood thinners: This medicine helps prevent clots from forming in the blood. Clots can cause strokes, heart attacks, and death. Blood thinners make it more likely for you to bleed or bruise. Use an electric razor and soft toothbrush to help prevent bleeding.

  • Antibiotics: This medicine will help fight or prevent an infection. Take your antibiotics until they are gone, even if you feel better.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider as directed:

You will need to return to have your wound checked and stitches or staples removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Self-care:

  • Ask about activity: Your primary healthcare provider may want you to move your fingers or elbow soon after surgery. Do not move your lower arm unless your primary healthcare provider says it is okay. Ask your primary healthcare provider about weight and activity limits.

  • Ask when you can bathe: When you are allowed to bathe, cover your cast with 2 plastic bags. Tape the bags to your skin to keep the water out. Keep the cast out of the water so it does not get wet. If you do not have a cast, carefully wash the wound with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty.

  • Apply ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your arm, cast, or splint for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.

  • Elevate: Raise your arm above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your arm on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

Cast or splint care:

  • Check the skin around the cast or splint every day. Apply lotion on any red or sore areas.

  • Do not push down or lean on any part of the cast or splint, because it may break.

  • Do not scratch the skin under the cast with any sharp or pointed object inside the cast.

  • If your splint is too tight, gently loosen it so that your fingers are comfortable.

Physical therapy:

You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.

  • Your cast gets wet.

  • Your cast or splint begin to smell.

  • You have more pain or swelling than you did before the cast or splint was put on.

  • Your wound is red, swollen, or draining pus.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.

  • Your cast or splint breaks or gets damaged.

  • You have numbness or weakness in your arm or fingers.

  • Your fingers look pale or blue, feel numb, or tingle.

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You cough up blood.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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