(Setting a Fracture)
A closed fracture reduction is resetting a broken bone without cutting into the skin.
Broken Bones in the Arm
Reasons for Procedure
A closed reduction is done to realign pieces of a broken bone. It is done to:
- Allow the bond to heal properly and more quickly
- Decrease pain and prevent later deformity
- Regain use of the bone and limb
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a fracture reduction, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Nerve damage
- Fat particles or blood clots dislodging and traveling to the lungs
- Need for surgery if the bone does not heal properly
- Reaction to anesthesia
The closed reduction may not be successful. Surgery may be needed to properly align the bones.
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
- Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
- The use of certain medications
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam
- X-ray—to look for the broken bone
- Provide a splint for the broken bone to decrease the risk of additional injury until the fracture can be reduced
Leading up to the procedure:
- You may be given antibiotics if you have an open fracture.
- Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
- Arrange for help at home.
- Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
Your doctor will usually give you local anesthesia to numb the area. You may also be given a sedative.
In some cases, general anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep during the procedure if this is the case.
Description of the Procedure
The bone fragments will be moved into their normal position. Traction will be applied and a cast or splint will be used to hold the bones in place. No incisions are needed.
Immediately After Procedure
Another x-ray will be ordered to make sure the bone is in the correct position.
How Much Will It Hurt?
You will have some pain after the procedure. Ask your doctor about medication to help with the pain.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Severe or unusual pain that is not relieved by pain medication
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Numbness and/or tingling in the injured extremity
- Loss of movement in the fingers or toes of the injured arm or leg
- The cast feels too tight
- Burning or stinging sensations under the cast
- Redness of the skin around the cast
- Persistent itching under the cast
- Cracks or soft spots develop in the cast
- Chalky white, blue, or black discoloration of fingers, toes, arm, or leg
In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Broken bones. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/aches/b_bone.html. Updated October 2012. Accessed September 25, 2014.
Setting broken bones. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Programs-and-Services/Orthopaedic-Center/Treatment/Setting-Broken-Bones.aspx. Accessed September 25, 2014.
10/30/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Gosselin RA, Roberts I, Gillespie WJ. Antibiotics for preventing infection in open limb fractures. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(4):CD003764.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.