Home Care after the Insertion of An External Fixator to an Extremity or Pelvis
Before you leave the hospital, your nurse will show you how to care for your external fixator.
Your Home Care
These are the 4 home care activities that you need to do.
1. Check the Fixator
It’s important to check your fixator daily. Check for:
- Loose pins. The pins should not be loose at all.
- Loose nuts on the frame. The nuts may come loose from time to time. Your doctor may show you how to tighten them. Never adjust or change the frame on your own.
- Pain at the fracture site. If you’re still feeling pain, call your doctor. The frame may be loose.
2. Clean the Frame
Clean the frame about twice a week. Use a clean damp cloth or 4x4 gauze pad. The cloth can be dampened with alcohol or water. Then just wipe off the frame. The frame may be cleaned during a shower when you are allowed to do so.
3. Check Your Temperature Daily
Call your doctor if it goes above 100.5° F or 38.1° C for 2 readings taken 4 hours apart. A slight increase in temperature may be the first sign that there is an infection at the fracture site or pin site.
4. Clean the Pin Sites
You will need to clean the pin sites once or twice a day as instructed by your doctor. Often, a crust will form around each site. This crust must be cleaned off to prevent infection. You or a family member will be shown how to clean the pin sites before you go home.
Small sterile containers
1 bottle of hydrogen peroxide
1 bottle of sterile normal saline
1 tube of antibiotic ointment or individual packets
Sterile cotton swabs
Gloves (not sterile)
What to Do
1. Wash hands well with antibacterial soap and water.
2. Make a cleaning solution.
- Mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 1 part normal saline. Ask your nurse how much hydrogen peroxide and saline you should use for one cleaning. Make only enough for one cleaning. Once they are mixed, they cannot be stored.
- Other - You should clean your pins with:
NOTE: You may want to wear the gloves for the steps listed below.
3. Dip a sterile cotton swab into the cleaning solution. Clean one pin site. Be sure to remove any crust. Then, repeat for each pin site. Always use a new clean swab for each pin site and start next to the pin working away in a circular, pushing motion. If the skin is growing onto the pin, carefully clean and push it down off the pin to prevent tenting (skin up the pin).
4. Dry each pin site with a clean swab.
5. Check the pin sites for signs of infection. Call your doctor right away if you see any signs of:
- Increased pain
- Increased or foul smelling drainage
6. Apply a thin coat of antibiotic ointment around each pin site. Again, use a clean swab for each pin site.
To Get More Supplies
You may be able to get more supplies on your return visits to the Orthopedic Clinic, or you will be directed to other providers. If you need more supplies but do not have a scheduled clinic visit, call the clinic at (608) 263-7540.
Continue to do your exercises. They will help in your recovery.
Once all of the pin sites and wounds have healed, you may be allowed to shower with the fixator in place. Never do this until approved by your doctor. During a shower, scrub the fixator. Wash your pelvis or leg with antibacterial soap. Dry completely and follow right away with pin care.
The length of time needed before you can return to your daily routine depends on your recovery. Your doctor will give you some guidelines to follow. Before you leave the hospital, find out what your guidelines are for:
- Work or school
- Light or strenuous activities
If you have any questions or problems, please call your doctor.
Mon.-Fri. 8:00 - 4:30 p.m.: Call the Orthopedic Clinic at (608) 263-7540
After Hours, Nights and Weekends, please call (608) 262-0486. This will give you the paging operator. Ask for the orthopedic resident on call. Give the operator your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, call 1-800-323-8942.
Your doctor: _____________________________________________________
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 04/27/2010
Copyright © 04/27/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4288
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