Routine Implant Removal after Fracture Surgery: A Potentially Reducible Consumer of Hospital Resources in Trauma Units

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Abstract

Objective

Assess the workload caused by elective routine removals of internal fracture fixation devices in a large university orthopedic and trauma unit when no premediated departmental removal policy existed.

Materials and Methods

Data on all operations performed during a 7-year period were retrieved. Routine removals of internal fracture fixation implants were analyzed for demographic data and clinical details. Patients requiring additional procedures to manage the fracture besides simple hardware removal were excluded. Nationwide data were included for comparison.

Results

A total of 5,095 routine implant removal operations were performed after uneventful fracture union. The mean age of the patients was 42 years. The five most common fracture types were fractures of the ankle, the proximal femur, the tibial shaft, the femoral shaft, and the thoracolumbar spine. In 63% of the procedures, a medium-size or large implant was removed. The mean operation time was 37 minutes. The removals accounted for 29% of all elective operations and for 15% of all operations at the department. The corresponding nationwide figure was 6.3% of all orthopedic operations, the number of implant removals in the whole country being 90 operations per 100,000 person-years.

Conclusions

Without a strict departmental removal policy, a remarkable portion of the resources allocated for elective orthopedic operations was spent on routine hardware removal procedures. A more rational and selective attitude toward implant removals is desirable. Further research on the disadvantages of retained hardware and the complications of implant removals is required.

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