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ORIF of an Elbow Fracture

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

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

Internal Fixation Device

DISCHARGE INSTRUCTIONS:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough.
  • You cough up blood.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • You have numbness or weakness in your arm or fingers.
  • Your fingers look pale or blue, or they tingle.
  • Your cast, splint, or brace breaks or gets damaged.
  • Your stitches or staples come apart.
  • You have more swelling in your fingers.

Call your doctor or surgeon if:

  • Your cast feels too tight.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • Your cast gets wet.
  • Your cast, splint, or brace begins to smell.
  • Your wound is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • Your pain does not get better, even after you take pain medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Medicines:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her 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.

Self-care:

  • Limit activity. Ask your healthcare provider about the best activities for you. You not be able to lift heavy weights or play sports until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Ask when you can start to drive again and return to work.
  • Apply ice as directed. 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 the area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
  • Elevate your elbow. Keep the elbow above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help relieve pain and swelling. Prop your arm on pillows to keep it elevated comfortably.

  • Ask when you can bathe. When you are allowed to bathe, cover the 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 the bandages when they get wet or dirty.

Cast, splint, or brace care:

  • Check the skin around the cast, splint, or brace each day. Apply lotion on any red or sore areas.
  • Do not push down or lean on any part of the cast, splint, or brace.
  • Do not scratch the skin under the cast, splint, or brace with any sharp or pointed object.
  • Move your fingers several times a day. This will help decrease stiffness and swelling.

Go to physical therapy, if directed:

A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.

Follow up with your doctor or surgeon as directed:

You will need to return to have the surgery wound checked and stitches or cast removed. You may be given an elbow brace that allows more movement. This will help prevent elbow stiffness. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.