Orthopedic surgical procedures for installing plates & screws in broken arms

Written by kylie lemon
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Orthopedic surgical procedures for installing plates & screws in broken arms
The radius and ulna are the bones in the forearm. (x-ray of arm image by Tammy Mobley from Fotolia.com)

Using plates, pins, nails and screws to fix broken bones in the arm, as well as in other parts of the body, is referred to as bone fracture repair. The arm has three bones. The long bone in the upper arm is the humerus and the two bones in the forearm are the radius and ulna. Repairing these bones often involves the installation of plates, screws and pins.

Surgical Procedure

Orthopaedic surgical procedures to realign broken arm bones take place while the patient is under local or general anaesthesia. A surgical cut is made into the area of the arm where the broken bone is located. Once the bone is placed in the correct position, screws, pins or plates may be attached to it in order to maintain its position. These metal items can be later taken out once the bone has healed, or may be left inside permanently. During surgery, any damaged blood vessels are carefully cauterised.

Repair Methods

Depending on the type of fracture, a number of methods may be used to fix the broken bones. Some breaks require only one or two screws to be placed across them to keep them in place. In some instances, a long rod is driven down the length of the bone. Screws are then driven through the bone and into the holes in the rod. Treatment of forearm fractures involves realignment of the bones and then the use of a plate and screws to secure the bones.


Any surgery carries risks. Anaesthesia can result in breathing problems and there is the added risk of the patient reacting negatively to the medications. Additional risks include infection, nerve injury and bleeding.

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