Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

What is ORIF? One of my employees broke his elbow and text messaged me from the hospital. He said they are going to do an ORIF operation.

Answer:

ORIF stands for open reduction and internal fixation. Open reduction means the surgery is done with an incision to open the area and perform the operation. This is instead of a minimally invasive (MI) approach.

With MI, the surgeon makes a tiny incision and slips an arthroscope through the opening and into the area. The scope has a very small TV camera on the end that allows the surgeon to see on a video screen what's going on inside. Surgical instruments can be passed through the scope to do what needs to be done.

Internal fixation refers to the hardware used to hold everything together. This could be metal wires, screws, or plates The hardware stabilizes the bones or joint until healing can take place. Depending on which part of the body is involved, the hardware is later removed. In the case of the elbow, removal is common after healing is complete.

With an elbow fracture, it's likely your employee will be in a rehab program. This will help him regain motion and strength. Stiffness is a very common and difficult problem post-operatively for any elbow injury.

If it's a simple fracture, rehab may not be needed. Most often there is damage to the ligaments and soft tissues around the joint. Sometimes the bone breaks, the joint dislocates, and the ligaments rupture. These types of injuries require surgery and rehab to obtain full recovery. Nirmal C. Tejwani, MD and Hemang Mehta, MD. Fractures of the Radial Head and Neck: Current Concepts in Management. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. July 2007. Vol. 15. No. 7. Pp. 380-387.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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