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ORIF of an Arm Fracture

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

What do I need to know about open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) of an arm fracture?

ORIF of an arm fracture is surgery to fix a broken arm bone. Open reduction means the bones will be moved back into the correct position. Internal fixation means hardware (such as plates, screws, pins, or wires) is used to hold the bones in place while they heal.

Internal Fixation Device

How do I prepare for ORIF?

  • Your surgeon will tell you how to prepare. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of surgery. Arrange to have someone drive you home from surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about all medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine for surgery, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about all your allergies. Tell him or her if you had an allergic reaction to anesthesia or antibiotics.
  • You may need an x-ray or MRI of your arm.

What will happen during ORIF?

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given regional anesthesia to numb your arm. You will be awake during surgery if you get regional anesthesia, but you should not feel pain. An incision will be made on or around your arm fracture. Small pieces of bone will be removed and damaged muscles or tendons fixed.
  • Your surgeon will use plates, screws, pins, or wires to put the broken pieces back together. A bone graft may be placed in or around the fracture to fill any defect. Bone is added to make it stronger as the natural bone grows around the graft. X-rays may be taken to check that the bones are in the correct position. The wound will be closed with stitches or staples and covered with bandages.

What should I expect after ORIF?

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When your healthcare provider sees that you are okay, you may be able to go home.

  • A cast or splint may be placed to help prevent movement so the bones can heal.
  • Medicines may be given to prevent or relieve pain or nausea.

What are the risks of ORIF for an arm fracture?

Your arm may become stiff, numb, and weak. Your arm may not heal properly. You may not be able to move your arm the way you did before your injury. You may have trouble going back to your usual activities. You may get compartment syndrome (increased pressure in your arm), which can damage muscles and tissue. You may need surgery on your arm again. You may develop a life-threatening blood clot.

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.

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Further information

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