Last Updated: 9/6/2023

Broken bones may result from slips and falls, falls from heights, vehicle accidents, being struck by falling objects on a construction site, and other accidents that occur in Iowa workplaces or while performing job duties. In some cases, doctors may recommend external fixation in order to immobilize the fractured bones so they can heal.

What is external fixation?

External fixation is a method in which doctors immobilize the broken bones by using devices like screws and pins which they insert into the bones on either side of the fracture. The device includes clamps and rods that are used to secure the pins on the outside of the body, which is how it differs from internal fixation which only involves internal hardware. The bone is stabilized in this manner for as long as is necessary.

In the case of a simple fracture, you may need to have the fixator attached for several weeks to allow the bone to heal. However, in the case of complex fractures, you may have the fixator attached for as long as a year so it can heal properly. The device can protect the fractured bone and hold it in the proper position during healing.

External devices like fixators are not purely external devices because they also involve pins inserted into the broken bones. This is how they differ from other types of external devices used for stabilizing broken bones, like splints and casts.

When does a doctor decide to use external fixation?

External fixation is not used in every case of fractures. Your doctor will evaluate your injury and decide which treatment method may be most appropriate. Often, doctors use external fixators when a patient has suffered multiple injuries, and is not yet ready to undergo surgery to fix the broken bones.

The device helps provide the bone with stability until the patient can undergo a surgery for a more permanent solution. In other cases, the external frame is left on until the bone has healed completely.

What can I expect during and after an external fixation procedure?

Typically, doctors will use general anesthesia during an external fixation procedure, which presents its own risks. You will experience discomfort for a few days, and doctors may advise exercises and outpatient therapy to help keep the muscles strong during this period of immobilization. You must take proper care of the external fixation device at home. The doctor will provide you instructions for doing so.

As with any surgical procedure, external fixation presents a risk of complications. This might include the pin becoming loose, contributing to failure of the fracture to heal properly. Infections may also arise at the site where the pins are inserted into the skin. Patients should always thoroughly discuss the procedure and possible complications with their doctors.

Workers' Compensation Can Address Treatment Costs after a Work Injury

Any treatment can be costly, including external fixation, and workers may feel panicked about paying their medical bills. Fortunately, workers' compensation pays for medical costs to treat an injury as long as it is work-related. Medical benefits through Iowa workers' compensation can pay medical costs for as long as necessary to treat the injury. This includes costs of external fixation procedures.

Your benefits will also cover doctor’s fees, additional surgeries and the cost of medications. You may also recover disability benefits, which depend on the extent of your injury and impairment. Talk to an attorney at Walker, Billingsley & Bair for help recovering workers' compensation benefits to which you're entitled. Call us (515) 440-2852 or fill out the form on our contact page to set up a consultation.

Corey Walker
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With over 28 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.