Plates and screws are used most commonly to stabilize an unstable fracture (broken bone) after it has been reduced (set back to its relatively normal alignment). Many stable fractures will heal with only a splint or cast to hold the fracture ends in alignment until it heals.
The plate and or screws may allow bone healing, early return to activity and a reduction in abnormal fracture healing for unstable fractures. A plate can function as an internal splint that is used in conjunction with screws to maintain the repositioned broken bone. Some fractures can be held together with screws alone.
Most of the time, the plate and/or screws do not require removal. The plate and or screws may be considered for removal by your orthopaedic surgeon for several reasons. After the fracture heals and any of the following reasons:
- Painful hardware (plate and screws) irritation of the surrounding soft tissues (ligament, tendons or bursa);
- Prominent or uncomfortable hardware;
- Hardware infected;
- Hardware breaks or loosens;
- Malunion – the fractured bone heals incorrectly;
- Nonunion – the fractured bone doesn’t heal;
- Syndesmosis screw- used temporary to allow ankle ligament healing; and,
- Many fractures in children.
Patients may discuss hardware removal with their orthopaedic surgeon. For additional information on plate and screw removal visit www.OrthoInfo.org.