External Fixator Pin Site Care

The TAYLOR SPATIAL FRAME device is attached to the outside of your limb with pins and wires that penetrate your skin through your bone and out the other side. Pin tract sites are where the pins and wires go through your skin.

Pin-tract infections are a common problem around these pin sites, but may be avoided with proper pin care. You will have a major responsibility to make sure that the pin site areas are cleaned daily - you must take vigilant care to keep the pint tract sites clean and free of infection.

Pin site care

Your surgeon will guide you in the proper care and cleaning of the pin sites. You will need to learn how to remove dried blood and scabs from the pin sites to keep your skin from adhering to the pins and allow free drainage of your pin site. Gentle massage around the pin sites may also help to keep your skin from adhering to the pins. Be gentle when you massage around your pin sites as excessive skin motion on the pins may cause infection. If you have difficulty reaching or seeing all the pin sites, have a family member or friend help, or you can use a mirror.

Make sure that you follow your surgeon's recommendations for proper pin site care to avoid infection.
arm of toddler with attached fixiator

Showers with the external fixator

You may not be allowed to shower for approximately five to seven days after initial placement of the TAYLOR SPATIAL FRAME™ device. Until you are allowed to shower, your surgeon may have you clean the pin sites with cotton swabs and normal saline or other topical cleaner or antibiotic that your surgeon prescribes. During the first few days after the external fixator is placed, expect a clear yellow or slightly bloody drainage from the pin sites.

As long as there are no open wounds and your surgeon allows it, you can shower with the TAYLOR SPATIAL FRAME device in place. You may consider placing a rubber mat in the tub or utilizing a shower chair or installing handrails in your shower for safety. When you are released to take showers, cleaning the pin sites with an antibacterial liquid soap and water while in the shower has proven to be a simple and effective external fixator pin care method. Allow the soap and water to run down the extremity that the external fixator is attached to. Do not scrub. Rinse and dry the fixator and the extremity thoroughly. You can dry using a hair dryer on a cool setting.

Any activities that involve soaking the external fixator in potentially contaminated water are discouraged. That means no natural ocean waters, rivers, etc. Your surgeon may, however, allow you to swim in a clean, chlorinated pool after your sutures are removed.

Pin-tract infections

Because you will have pins and wires going through your skin into your bone, there is a risk for pin-tract infections. With proper cleaning, protection and care of your pin sites, you may never have an infection – which is the goal. Call your surgeon if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Redness, warmth and swelling at the pin sites. A small amount of redness is normal.
  • Extrememly tender pin sites.
  • Persistant fever of 100.5 farenheit or higher- taken orally.
  • Thick, cloudy, white, yellow or green drainage from the pin sites. Clear yellow or slightly bloody drainage is normal.
  • Odor at the pin sites.

Nerve problems

If you experience pain in a place where there are no pins, this may be the first sign of a nerve problem. This is called 'referred pain.' The next sign is an increased or decreased feeling in the area of your foot or hand, depending on where your external fixator is located. You could experience these symptoms during the initial correction phase of your treatment with the TAYLOR SPATIAL FRAME fixator. Report these symptoms to your surgeon as soon as possible. They may be indications of nerve irritation.

Smith & Nephew