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How Open Reduction and Internal Fixation Treats Fractures

How Open Reduction and Internal Fixation Treats Fractures

If you or a loved one are dealing with a fracture, you’re in good company. Americans report around 7 million broken bones every year, and people of all ages are at risk.

Any time you have a broken bone, you need to seek professional medical care. Proper treatment helps your bones heal correctly, preventing serious complications from developing. 

Most of the time, fractures only require casting or another kind of immobilization to heal. But in some cases, bone fractures might need surgical intervention to make sure the bones are set in the right place so your mobility isn’t at risk. 

The board-certified orthopedic surgeons at Ortho 1 Medical Group, with offices in San Diego, Chula Vista, Coronado, and La Jolla, California, can diagnose your fracture and have the skill and experience needed to perform surgical repairs when needed.   

There are different types of fracture repairs. Keep reading to learn more about surgery for fractures and how one technique, called open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF), can help repair your bones. 

When do fractures require surgery? 

When you break a bone, it needs to be in the correct position in order to heal correctly. But sometimes a bone breaks in a way that makes it impossible to set the fractured bone in the right location. Other times, the break is so severe that immobilization (i.e., a cast) isn’t enough for the bone to heal. 

If your fracture breaks in such a way that immobilization won’t be sufficient treatment, your Ortho 1 Medical Group provider may recommend surgical repair. Some of the most common types of fractures that need surgery include:

In addition, the location and severity of the break may mean surgery is your best option, even if you don’t have one of the above fractures. For instance, most femur (thigh) fractures require surgery no matter what type of break occurs. 

How can ORIF surgery help?

Depending on the type of fracture you have, your doctor may recommend open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) surgery. This type of surgery requires an orthopedic surgeon with training in issues related to bones, joints, and muscles.

Open reduction means making an incision to physically move the bones or bone fragments into the correct place. Internal fixation means using internal screws, plates, pins, wires, sutures, or rods to keep the bone in place while it heals. 

Depending on the type of hardware used, it may remain in place after you heal, or your surgeon might remove it.

ORIF surgery allows your bone to heal properly. This means less pain after your body heals, and a lower risk of having your mobility and function impacted severely by the break. It can also help prevent reinjury down the line.

Why would I need ORIF surgery?

Most of the time, our Ortho 1 Medical Group surgeons recommend ORIF surgery in cases of severe fracture, such as the types of fractures listed above. 

Your provider may suggest ORIF surgery if you have an unstable fracture, where it’s easy for the bone to move out of place, if you have multiple breaks in the same bone, or if a joint is dislocated.

What is recovery like after ORIF surgery?

Recovery after ORIF surgery depends on many factors, including your age, overall health and fitness level at the time of the break, and the location and severity of your fracture. Your Ortho 1 Medical Group provider talks to you about what you can expect based on your situation.

Generally, it can take between 3 and 12 months for the initial healing period after surgery, and up to a year for the bone to fully heal and regrow. Most patients have physical therapy to help rebuild strength and flexibility and to help with mobility and function of the injured area.


If you or a loved one are facing ORIF surgery, don’t hesitate to reach out to a provider at Ortho 1 Medical Group with multiple locations in the San Diego area. You can schedule a consultation online or over the phone at Ortho 1 Medical Group at the location nearest you.

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