Upper Extremity Fracture Surgery

Surgery with plates and screws is the most commonly used treatment for fractures of the hand, radius/ulna (forearm), and humerus (upper arm).


Fractures (broken bones) of the upper extremity that require surgery are most commonly treated with open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF). This surgery involves making an incision, directly reducing the broken bones and using plate and screws to hold the broken bones together.  Occasionally in children, flexible rods may be placed in the bone through small incisions after alignment has been restored.

The goal of the surgery is to reduce and hold the broken bones in better alignment; the surgery itself does not heal the fracture.  The healing is done by your body and happens slowly, typically taking 6 to 8 weeks depending on your age, the type of fracture and its severity.  A splint or cast may be used post-operatively to support and protect the injured area.  

It is important to have the optimum amount of calcium and vitamin D so that your body can have the best chance of healing the fracture.

It is important to ice and slightly elevate the operative area during the first 48 hours to minimize swelling.  You can expect some pain and discomfort for at least a week after surgery.  You will be prescribed pain medication to help with this discomfort.  

Upper extremity fracture surgery is performed both as an outpatient and inpatient procedure. You may be able to go home the same day or may stay in the hospital overnight depending on the extent of the surgery.

Physical therapy and rehabilitation play an important role in getting you back to your daily activities. Exercise programs and a rehabilitation plan will be discussed at the first visit based upon the intra-operative findings.