Epsom Salt “Super Soak” for Pin Sites

Warning: Do not use Epsom salt super soaks if you have open wounds (other than the pin sites themselves.)

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One method of keeping external fixator pin sites clean is through the use of Epsom salt soaks. The use of Epsom salt has long been a folk remedy for a number of problems, and some orthopedic surgeons believe that it can be beneficial for patients with external fixators. This procedure may be used for patients of any age who do not have open wounds (except for the pin sites themselves).

If your doctor recommends these “Super Soaks,” we recommend the following procedure, starting approximately ten days after surgery:

Mix the following in a clean 5-gallon bucket or a white plastic kitchen trash can*:

  • Warm clean water – approximately 5 gallons
  • 1 cup of Epsom salt
  • 2 tablespoons of Clorox

*You may need the larger size trash can if your fixator has a “foot plate” on it.

Stir these ingredients together and then soak the extremity with the fixator in it. Soak for approximately 10 minutes every day, but if the pin sites are red or inflamed, do this twice a day.  Afterwards, you may pat dry with a towel, (be careful not to get the wires caught in the towel!), let it air dry, or use a hair dryer on a cool setting.

Remember to clean the bucket thoroughly and to use a new solution each time.

The soaks may make the skin dry. Remember that you cannot put lotion near the pins themselves, however you may apply it on the intact skin, well away from the pins. Avoid an area about the size of a half dollar (approximately 30 mm) around the actual pin site. Some people find using a foam stick, such as a small foam paint brush, helpful for applying lotion.

If you have medical conditions, please consult with your medical doctor before the soak, because there is some evidence that the ingredients in the Epsom salt (magnesium and sulfate) can be absorbed through the skin.** Since magnesium can help relax muscles, this might be beneficial for certain patients.

Recipe courtesy of our colleague William Terrell, MD of Marietta, GA

**Epsom Salt Council Report on Absorption of Magnesium Sulfate