A broken bone must be carefully stabilized and supported until it is strong enough to handle the body's weight and movement. Until the last century, physicians relied on casts and splints to support and stabilize the bone from outside the body. The advent of sterile surgical procedures reduced the risk of infection, allowing doctors to internally set and stabilize fractured bones.
During a surgical procedure to set a fracture, the bone fragments are first repositioned (reduced) into their normal alignment. They are held together with special implants, such as plates, screws, nails and wires.
Internal fixation allows shorter hospital stays, enables patients to return to function earlier, and reduces the incidence of nonunion (improper healing) and malunion (healing in improper position) of broken bones.
The implants used for internal fixation are made from stainless steel and titanium, which are durable and strong. If a joint is to be replaced, rather than fixed, these implants can also be made of cobalt and chrome. Implants are compatible with the body and rarely cause an allergic reaction.