Internal Fixation: Wires and Pins
How are pins and wires used for internal fixation?
“Internal fixation” is a way to hold broken bone fragments together after an injury or surgery. For bones to heal straight, they may need to be stabilized. In simple cases, especially in children, stabilization is achieved with internal fixation (hardware) such as pins or wires. The pins and wires are made out of metals that are compatible with the body, such as stainless steel and titanium. The pins and wires can either be buried under the skin or left protruding outside of the skin. Pins or wires protruding outside of the skin are usually under a cast or splint where you will not see them or be able to touch them.
As mentioned above, there are two main reasons pins or wires are used to fix broken bones: 1) from injury/trauma, or 2) following a surgical procedure to straighten two crooked bones. In both situations, the internal fixation pins or wires are used to hold the desired position until healed. Once the bones are healed, the internal fixation no longer serves a purpose.
Do pins and wires need to be removed?
The pins and wires usually need to be removed once the bones are healed. There are cases where you may not need to have the hardware removed, and this is something your physician will discuss with you.
How are pins and wires removed?
Pins that are buried under the skin will require a trip back to the operating room to be removed. The procedure is relatively quick, and you will be able to go home the same day as your surgery. A bandage will be placed over the area where the pin was removed, and the skin will scab over within 48 hours. You will be able to shower within 5 days.
For pins or wires outside of the skin, removal can be done in the office setting without anesthesia. These pins and wires are small diameter (thin) and smooth, so they come out easily, similar to removing an IV from the arm. This may be a little painful for just a few moments. After removing these pins or wires in the office, we just apply a band-aid. No stitches are necessary. We do ask that you not shower for 48 hours after removal of the pins or wires. You will not require a wound check visit, but you are often seen within 3 to 4 weeks after the removal of hardware to check range of motion and get X-rays if necessary.