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External Fixation Device for an Adult

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about external fixation devices?

An external fixation device has a metal frame. The frame may go around the limb (arm or leg) or it may go along one side of the limb. The frame is held in place by pins and wires. The pins and wires are put through the skin and attach to bone. The device is used when you have a complex break in your bone. The device is put in place during surgery.

External Fixation Device

What do I need to know about site care?

Site care while you have the device in place is important. Pin sites are where the pins or wires enter the skin. Germs can get into your body through the pin sites and cause infection. Care includes cleaning the sites and looking for infection. Your healthcare provider will teach you and your caregiver how to clean the sites. He or she will tell you how many times in a day to do the cleaning and check for infection.

How do I clean my pin sites?

Follow the specific instructions from your healthcare provider.

  • You may need to use gauze, cotton swabs, tweezers, a squirt bottle, or gloves. Use a different gauze and swab for each site.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you which liquid to use to clean the site. He or she may tell you to use peroxide, saline, or soap and water.
  • You can soak gauze in the liquid and wrap it around the pins to help remove any crusting.
  • Always wash your hands before and after you clean the sites.

How do I keep myself comfortable?

  • Elevate your arm or leg above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your limb on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
    Elevate Leg
  • Apply ice on your limb for 15 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your skin. Ice helps to decrease swelling and pain.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher.
  • Your fingers or toes look pale or blue, and are cold, numb, or tingling.
  • You have pain and warmth at the pin sites.
  • Your sites have more redness and drainage than usual.
  • The frame or pins are loose or move more than usual.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, care, or device.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 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 IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.