An ilizarov frame is an external frame surgeons use to lengthen or reshape bones or to treat complex mal-union or non-union fractures.
Ilizarov frames can also be used when treating infections in bones. The type of frame used depends on what limb is being treated.
When the frame is in place, stainless steel or titanium rings are usually attached to healthy bone at the top and bottom using heavy wire. Tension is applied in the healthy bone, bypassing the area being treated and keeping it immobile and stress free.
What happens during ilizarov frame surgery?
Ilizarov frame surgery is usually done using general anaesthetic. The length of your procedure will depend on what limb your surgeon is treating as well as the extent of the treatment. Be sure and discuss this with your surgeon prior to your surgery.
Your frame will consist of rings (4-6). Wires are attached to the rings and pass through your skin into bone and out the opposite side. Pins hold the wires in place and can be used when adjustments are needed during your treatment. You may be given nerve blocks during your operation to help ease post-operative pain. This may make your limb feel numb or tingly.
Your length of stay in hospital will depend on the extent of correction your operation will make.
Going home after ilizarov frame surgery
You will not be able to drive so please arrange for someone to drive you home on your day of discharge. You should not drive until you are released to do so by your surgeon. You will need to inform the DVLA and your insurance company that you are wearing an ilizrov frame.
Continue to take any pain medication as needed. Your pain levels will settle in a few days. Elevate your limb to ease any swelling.
In the early days you may need assistance with simple tasks like washing, dressing and getting something to eat. Remember your frame is only temporary. With a bit of patience and a positive attitude you will soon be functioning on your own.
Before leaving, our staff will show you how to do any adjustments to your frame. All pin sites will need to be kept very clean. Our staff will show you how to clean them so you can do this on your own. If you can’t reach the pin sites we will teach your partner or your chosen carer how to help you.
You should keep your frame clean and dry. Baths are not advised due to the risk of infection in the pin sites. Your surgeon may advise that you may take a shower immediately prior to dressing change, however it is advisable to check before you do so.
Continue to move about and do any exercises given to you by our physiotherapist. Exercise encourages bone growth. Use any walking aides as prescribed by your surgeon.
Everyone heals at a different rate. The length of time you will need to wear your frame will likely be a minimum of 3 months. But in most cases patients must wear their frames for 6-12 months.
You should discuss any return to work with your consultant.
With any surgical procedure there can be complications:
- Blood clots (deep vein thrombosis)
- Specific complications following ilizarov frame surgery may include:
Infection where the pins penetrate the skin
- Bruising or bleeding
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Muscle or joint stiffness
- Pin or wire breakage
- Constipation (due to taking pain medication)
Why not print this treatment page so you can discuss any concerns you have with your surgeon?
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