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Open Reduction And Internal Fixation Of An Arm Fracture


  • An open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) is surgery to fix a fractured (broken) bone. You may need ORIF for a broken arm bone, such as your humerus (upper arm bone). The break also may be in one or both of your lower arm bones, called the radius and ulna. You may break your arm bones in a fall, car crash, or while playing sports. Your bones are more likely to break if you have cancer or osteoporosis (a disease that causes bones to weaken). A reduction is done when your bone has broken and it has also moved out of place (dislocated). During open reduction, your caregiver makes an incision (cut) into your arm to move the bones back into place. Internal fixation means that hardware (metal objects) are used to hold your bones together.
    Anatomy of the Arm
  • Your may need ORIF if caregivers did a closed reduction, but your bones have not healed. An ORIF is also done if a bone is broken into many pieces or there is bone sticking out of the skin. Open reduction and internal fixation surgery may decrease your arm pain and help your broken arm heal correctly.



Keep a written list of the medicines you take, the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list of your medicines or the pill bottles when you see your caregivers. Learn why you take each medicine. Ask your caregiver for information about your medicine. Do not use any medicines, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs, or food supplements without first talking to caregivers. Call your caregiver if you think that you are having side effects of your medicine. If you are taking medicine that makes you drowsy, do not drive or use heavy equipment.

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your primary healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • 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.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

  • You may have tests, such as x-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans, to see how your arm is healing. Your caregiver may move your arm to see how it rotates and stretches. If your wound was closed with stitches or staples after surgery, caregivers may remove them. If your wound was left open, your caregiver may close it with stitches. If you have a cast, your caregiver will remove it after your arm has healed. Your hardware may need to be removed. Ask your caregiver for information about hardware removal.


Your caregiver may want you to move your fingers and elbow soon after surgery. If you have a forearm fracture, do not rotate your lower arm until your caregiver says it is okay. Ask your caregiver when and how to move your arm as it heals. Ask your caregiver how much weight you may safely lift. Do not play sports until your caregiver says it is okay.

Splint or cast care:

Ask your caregiver how to take care of your cast or splint.

Ice and heat:

Your caregiver may want you to put ice or heat on your cast as your arm heals. Ice or heat may decrease your swelling and pain.


Your caregiver may want you to sleep with your arm propped up on pillows. You may need to sleep in a chair that reclines. Ask you caregiver for information about how to sleep.

Physical therapy:

You may need to see a physical therapist. This caregiver will teach you exercises to help your arm get stronger after surgery.


If you smoke, your wound may take longer to heal. It is never too late to quit smoking. Smoking harms the heart, lungs, and the blood. You are more likely to have a heart attack, lung disease, and cancer if you smoke. You will help yourself and those around you by not smoking. Ask your caregiver for more information about how to stop smoking if you are having trouble quitting.

Bone disease:

Having osteoporosis or another bone disease increases your risk of breaking bones. Ask your caregiver for ways to protect your bones from breaking.


  • You have a fever.
  • You have a plaster cast, and it gets wet and soft.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
  • You have new swelling in your arm or fingers.
  • You have numbness or weakness in your arm or fingers.
  • Your pain becomes worse or does not go away.
  • Your wound is draining pus or is red and swollen.
  • You have questions or concerns about your arm surgery, medicine, or care.


  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.
  • You have new numbness or weakness in your arm.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Your fingers suddenly look blue or pale (lighter in color than usual).

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.

Further information

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

Learn more about Open Reduction And Internal Fixation Of An Arm Fracture (Aftercare Instructions)

Micromedex® Care Notes