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What is the Suzuki Frame?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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A Suzuki frame is an external fixation device used in the treatment of complex fractures of the fingers. It creates traction around the fracture to promote even, healthy healing with minimal bone loss. The device is named for the Japanese physician who developed it in the 1990s and is in use in clinical settings around the world. For a patient, wearing a Suzuki frame can be inconvenient, but the improved prognosis can be worth the temporary difficulty.

Finger fractures are notoriously challenging to treat because the fingers are hard to cast and immobilize, and patients need to retain as much functionality as possible when the fracture heals. In the case of an intraarticular fracture, a fracture that extends into the finger joint, it can be very difficult to set the fracture and keep it in place during healing. A Suzuki frame is ideal for this application, and while originally developed for the thumb, the device can also be used on other fingers.

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To fit a patient with a Suzuki frame, pins known as Kirschner wires are driven into the bone, and rubber bands are used to create traction and stabilize the joint. Padding may be used to make the finger more comfortable. An X-ray can be taken to verify the position of the frame, and the patient can be released to go home. During follow up appointments, the healing will be checked with further X-rays, until it is safe to take the traction off and remove the frame.

While wearing a Suzuki frame, patients need to exercise some special precautions. The finger cannot be jarred, as it may displace the fracture or twist the frame out of position. In addition to being painful, this could also inhibit healing. The pins make the finger vulnerable to infections and the site must be kept clean and dry. Hygiene and other tasks of daily living may be challenging, especially if the injured finger is on the dominant hand, and some patients may need assistance while they are healing.

An orthopedic surgeon or hand surgeon can determine whether a Suzuki frame is necessary and place it appropriately on the hand. Patients should follow medical advice carefully, and it is especially important to take any prescribed antibiotics or other medications during the healing process. If signs of inflammation, infection, or other complications occur, the surgeon should be called immediately and it may be necessary to make an appointment to see a doctor.

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