A broken bone must be carefully stabilised and supported until it is strong enough to handle the body’s weight and movement, especially in the foot. The added difficulty is that many of the bones in the foot are small and thin therefore a delicate touch is required when operating on them.
For a long time surgeons relied on casts and splints to support and stabilise the bone from outside the body. The advancement of sterile surgical procedures reduced the risk of infection, allowing doctors to internally set and stabilise fractured bones.
Internal Fixation for Fractures
During a surgical procedure to set a fracture, the bone fragments are first repositioned (reduced) into their normal alignment. They are held together with special implants, such as plates, screws, nails and wires.
Internal fixation allows shorter hospital stays, enables patients to return to function earlier, and reduces the incidence of nonunion (improper healing) and malunion (healing in improper position) of broken bones.
The implants used for internal fixation are made from stainless steel and titanium, which are durable and strong. If a joint is to be replaced, rather than fixed, these implants can also be made of cobalt and chrome. Implants are compatible with the body and rarely cause an allergic reaction.
Plates are like internal splints that hold the broken pieces of bone together. They are attached to the bone with screws. Plates may be left in place after healing is complete, or they may be removed (in select cases).
Screws are used for internal fixation more often than any other type of implant. Although the screw is a simple device, there are different designs based on the type of fracture and how the screw will be used. Screws come in different sizes for use with bones of different sizes. Screws can be used alone to hold a fracture, as well as with plates, rods, or nails. After the bone heals, screws may be either left in place or removed.
Most internal fixation surgery is done as a day case procedure, often under Local & Sedation, meaning the patient can return home the same day.
Because your foot is comprised of so many small bones, the recovery time can differ depending on which bone and how many you break. A person can usually return to full sporting activities once the hard callus has formed, which typically occurs 6-12 weeks after the initial injury.