What is ORIF?

By Belinda Kirkland, DPT, CHT, ATC

Open Reduction Internal Fixation

What is ORIF?

The quick answer, ORIF is the abbreviation for the procedure open reduction internal fixation. ORIF involves surgery to reconnect the bones using various hardware such as screws, nails, plates, pins, wires, and rods.

image of Open Reduction Internal Fixation procedure

Open Reduction Internal Fixation.


How Do You Perform ORIF?

An orthopedic surgeon performs the procedure. The patient has anesthesia, either general or local. The surgeon makes an incision access the bone. In the first stage of the procedure, the surgeon tries to reposition the bones to restore normal alignment. The surgeon then fixes the bone utilizing hardware to help keep the bones together in a good position and keep the break from healing abnormally.  The incision is then closed and covered with a bandage.  A cast or splint may be placed on the area to help protect the bones as they heal.

Recovery From ORIF

After the surgery, you will go to the recovery room and a nurse will monitor you while waking up from anesthesia. Your vital signs, movement, and circulation will be checked often. Most patients with an arm fracture go home the same day. If you have a fracture of the leg, you may have to stay overnight in the hospital.

Why do I need ORIF?

A person can require Open Reduction and Internal Fixation if the bone is broken into many pieces, if the bone is sticking out of the skin or if a joint is dislocated. It can also be done if the bone is not lined up correctly to improve alignment.

Risks and Potential Complications associated with ORIF

As with any surgery, there are risks that can occur with Open Reduction and Internal Fixation. Risks include blood loss that may require transfusion, nerve damage, pain, swelling, muscle spasms, blood clots, and non-union.  There is a risk of bacterial infection with this procedure. After the surgery, some patients have pain associated with their hardware, and at a later date, the hardware may be able to be removed.

Benefits of ORIF

The benefits of having surgery for Open Reduction and Internal Fixation include the restoration of normal function, decreasing pain, and aiding with complete healing.  The surgery also aids in preventing further injury.

How to care for Myself at Home

To help your recovery at home, use your pain medication as directed by your surgeon following your Open Reduction Internal Fixation. Call your doctor if your pain is not controlled with the medication. Elevating the affected limb is beneficial to reduce swelling. Keep the incision clean and covered. Your doctor will tell you when it is okay to shower and bathe.

When should I call my Doctor?

Call your doctor if you have a fever over 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If you develop skin irritation or sores around the cast or note color changes in the fingers or toes (blue color), notify your Doctor. You should call your doctor if medication does not help control your pain.  You should call 911 or go to the Emergency Room (ER) if you experience active bleeding where the blood is bright red, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat that comes on suddenly.

To schedule with JOI Rehab for physical therapy, please call 904-858-7045. 

Related Articles: Hairline Wrist Fractures and Wrist Fractures.

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By: Belinda Kirkland, DPT, CHT, ATC

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