More than likely, you're already familiar with the non-surgical approaches that physicians use to help fractures heal. A doctor applies casts, braces, or splints around the affected area in order to hold the broken bone securely in position and provide support while the body repairs itself. In some cases however, particularly fractures of the long bones, today's best orthopaedic treatment includes securing the fracture internally with a metal intramedullary nail implanted by surgical procedure.
Your doctor has provided you with this booklet to answer some of the questions you may have about your broken bone and fracture treatment. It will also help you better understand what to typically expect over the next few days and weeks as you leave the hospital, begin physical therapy and follow up with your orthopaedic surgeon and physical therapist.
To align the fractured bones and provide optimal healing support, the orthopaedic surgeon makes a small incision through the skin and tissue closest to one end of the broken bones. The surgeon then inserts a small rod-like nail device into the hollow center of the bone, called the medullary cavity. The intramedullary nail forms a self-contained internal splint to stabilize the fracture. This is often done for fractures of the tibia (see below), femur (thigh), and humerus (shoulder).
Potential Advantages of the Intramedullary Nail
Together, you and your orthopaedic surgeon will decide on a course of aftercare that's most appropriate for you. The full length of your care may span several months. Rehabilitation will begin in the hospital and continue with outpatient physical therapy sessions, as well as at home. Understanding your care may help you feel more comfortable throughout the healing process.
How do I care for the new
At first, a hospital medical professional will take care of your incision sites. Like any other wound, they must be cared for every day to avoid complications that may include infection. As your health allows, you will probably learn how to care for the incision sites yourself.
The steps required to care for your wounds at home are described on page 3 within the section "At Home. Where Do I Go from Here?"
Why take additional X-rays?
Following surgery, your surgeon will take X-rays every few weeks to confirm that the fracture is healing appropriately. Keep in mind that everyone heals differently. You will heal at your own pace based upon a number of factors that your surgeon can discuss with you. Your surgeon will keep you informed about your progress each step of the way.
How does physical therapy
help me heal?
Since motion and muscle strength play an important role in fracture healing, the right exercises can significantly aid in your recovery. Of course, the fracture itself may hinder the use of your injured limb. Your doctor's choice of an intramedullary nail gives you the potential to begin moving earlier than treatment with an external cast or brace.
A physical therapist will work closely with you to select the most appropriate treatment and exercises to help you restore your range of motion and rebuild muscle strength.