Christie Brinkley had surgery after breaking her wrist. Is that always needed for a broken bone?
The recent widely covered video of supermodel Christie Brinkley’s fall, where she fractured her wrist while rehearsing for Dancing with the Stars, begs the question: When is surgery needed to treat a broken bone?
Brinkley underwent surgery to repair her fractured wrist after she tripped over her partner’s foot and fell forward, catching herself on an outstretched hand. But some fractures or breaks are straightforward with minimal displacement of the bone. These injuries can be treated with casting to immobilize the bone while it continues to heal.
Other fractures, like Brinkley’s, involve disruption of proper alignment of the bones.
In my practice, particularly in the trauma setting, I commonly need to repair fractures with surgery – using a plate, screws or sometimes a metal rod to stabilize the fracture and restore alignment.
Orthopedic hardware like plates, screws and rods help to hold the fractured pieces in position while the bone heals. I tell patients that their fracture is aligned after surgery, but during recovery there is usually a period of non-weightbearing or restriction of motion to allow the bones to heal. While the average time for bones to heal is about six weeks, that healing can take longer – particularly with significantly displaced fractures or in patients with other medical issues such as diabetes or those who smoke.
Patients with orthopedic hardware, like Brinkley, frequently wonder whether hardware will be removed.
In very rare instances, we remove hardware due to infection, pain or to improve mobility, but generally, the hardware is not removed. We’ve come a long way in treating fractures from the days of traction and heavy plaster casts. We now have improved techniques and tools to repair serious bone injuries – restoring our patients to a functional, healthy state.
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About the Author
Gregory Caronis, M.D., MBA is Chairman of Surgery at Advocate Condell Medical Center and a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Advocate Medical Group Orthopedics. A specialist in disorders of the foot. ankle and fracture/orthopedic trauma care, Dr. Caronis also practices general orthopedics. He sees patients in Libertyville and Gurnee – to schedule an appointment call AMG Orthopedics at (847) 634-1766.