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How Do I Recover from an Open Reduction Internal Fixation?

Crutches may be required after an open reduction internal fixation.
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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 June 2014
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An open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) is a surgical repair of a fractured bone, often an ankle, hip, or leg bone. Immediately after the surgery, patients will be taken to a recovery room for monitoring. They may expect to stay in the hospital for up to a week and full recovery may take about three to six months. A physical therapy program is necessary to facilitate mobility and regain muscle strength. Patients should also watch out for any possible complications that can develop.

This type of surgery is often performed under general anesthesia. Patients will awaken in a recovery room and will be observed to ensure there are no complications. After this, the recovery will begin in the hospital room.

The exact length of the in-hospital recovery from an open reduction internal fixation will vary depending on each patient and the specific injury. Patients may remain in the hospital for one to seven days. They will be positioned so that the surgical area is elevated to reduce swelling. Walking is strongly encouraged to help prevent blood clots, even on the day of operation, but crutches or a walker must be used. Patients must not place any weight on the affected limb.

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When the patient is ready to be released from the hospital, he must have someone else drive him home. Depending on the specific injury and whether it affects the right leg or the left, it may be weeks or even months before the patient is able to drive again. It is strongly encouraged for patients to have someone in their home to help them. They will be unable to perform some everyday tasks, such as cleaning, cooking, and running errands. Some people may consider going to a rehabilitation clinic instead of going directly home.

Recovery from an open reduction internal fixation requires that the patient place no weight on the affected body part. This may last for about six weeks. During this time, the patient will use crutches, a walker, or a wheelchair. Those who live in a multistory home will likely need to set up a full living area on the first floor.

The doctor will provide instructions for the patient on changing his dressing. After an open reduction internal fixation, he will need to replace the dressing regularly and keep the incision area clean and dry. This also allows the patient to monitor the incision area for signs of an infection or other complication. He should call his doctor if he notices increasing pain or swelling, redness, or unusual drainage. Fever, loss of sensation, and abnormal or painful urination are also signs of possible complications.

Physical therapy is required to regain mobility and strength following an open reduction internal fixation. After about six weeks, patients may be able to use a walking boot and begin to place some weight on the limb. The walking boot may be needed for an additional three to six weeks, throughout which the patient will continue his physical therapy. Some patients may experience mild to moderate swelling for up to a year after this procedure.

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