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Extremity Fracture Surgery

Open arm/forearm/hand/upper extremity fracture surgery is surgery most commonly used for treatment of fractures of the humerus (upper arm), radius/ulna (forearm), and hand.

What to Expect

Open arm/forearm/hand/upper extremity fracture surgery is done either as an outpatient or as an overnight stay procedure. Prior to surgery you will be asked to see your primary care doctor for “medical clearance”. They may check blood tests, EKG, and a chest x-ray in addition to other tests they find indicated.

Once surgery is scheduled, the hospital or surgery center will contact you ahead of time to provide specific details about your procedure. Please make sure to ask any questions you have and follow the instructions on when to arrive and especially on when to stop eating or drinking prior to surgery.

On the day of surgery, the anesthesia staff will talk with you about anesthesia options. You will be asleep for the procedure and often a regional nerve block is recommended to numb the upper extremity for pain relief.

Once in the operating room, you will be positioned so that a clear view of the fracture. A member of the surgical team will clean the skin over the fracture site with an antiseptic solution and a sterile drape will cover your upper extremity. Typically the incision is made over the fracture or area of reconstruction. Most fractures are treated with placement of plates and screws on the bone after alignment is restored. Some hand fractures are fixed with small pins underneath or through the skin. Flexible rods may be used in children once alignment is restored. At the end of surgery the incision is closed with stitches and covered them with a large, soft bandage.

Postoperatively you will stay in the recovery room for 1 to 2 hours before being discharged home or to the hospital floor. Nurses will monitor your responsiveness and provide pain medication, if needed. You will need someone to drive you home and stay with you for at least the first night if you go home.

Recovery from upper extremity fracture surgery depends on the procedure performed but takes several weeks and a few months before full recovery. Physical therapy will play a vital role after surgery in regaining strength and motion.