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ORIF of an Elbow Fracture

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

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

ORIF 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

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 blood or urine tests. You may also need elbow x-rays.

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 the area. You will be awake with regional anesthesia, but you should not feel pain. An incision will be made on or around your elbow fracture. Your surgeon will move the bones back into the correct position. He or she may use plates, screws, pins, or wires to hold the broken pieces together. Damaged blood vessels and nerves will also be fixed. X-rays may be taken to see if the bones are in the correct position. The wound will be closed with stitches or medical tape 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 healthcare providers see that you are okay, you may be able to go home.

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

What are the risks of ORIF for an elbow fracture?

Nerves, ligaments, and muscles may be damaged during surgery. Your arm, hand, or fingers may become stiff, numb, or weak. Your elbow may not heal properly. You may not be able to move your elbow the way you did before the injury. You may have trouble going back to your usual activities.

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Further information

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