Most commonly needed due to injury or wear, orthopedic implants are specially designed implants that replace missing joints and bones or help to support bones that are too weak or damaged to function properly on their own. Most orthopedic implants are made of stainless steel and titanium alloys due to their strength, durability, and lack of negative affect on the human body. Plastic coatings are also often added to these as a sort of artificial cartilage. Manufacturers like Autocam Medical make orthopedic implants in many types and varieties, made specifically for different types of joints, bones, breakages, and even for different sizes of bones due to the patient’s age, gender, and more:
Unlike most other types on this list, fracture fixation devices are used mostly externally, and they tend to be used more on bones that are broken or fractured in several places or multiple, smaller bones are involved in the damage. With this, a rod stays outside of the body and is anchored to the bone by what is usually a series of pins. Most complications from this type of device result from the loosening of the pins, which can happen as they are not meant to anchor more than a few millimeters in. To be clear, however, there are a number of other problems that can occur as is the case with most medical procedures.
Most often, joints that need to be replaced are the hip, shoulder, and ankles. Replacements can be elective but are mostly suggested when few other options are available as it involves removing the entirety, or most of, the bone joint and replacing it with a false, usually metal, device. Hip replacement is particularly common with the elderly as hips often go through a great deal of wear and tear through the years, and may need to be replaced if they are too weak or damaged to function properly. Another common cause of replacement is with athletes who need shoulder replacements. Throwing and catching, along with the significant other damage that sports can cause, wears at the shoulder a great deal.
Plates come in three main categories: compression, neutralization, and buttress plates. Compression plates are used almost exclusively on fractures that can only become stable once compressed. This can happen when the broken pieces of a bone can be placed back together, then held in place with the compression plate. Neutralization plates are used on fractured bones that often undergo bending, rotation, and force on a regular basis. This plate protects the bones from this, and can often be used in combination with screws. Buttress plates are used in situations where the compression and neutralization plates are not effective, meaning they are mostly used in severe circumstances. Typical uses include on the tibial plateau and distal radius where they hold depressed and impacted fragments in place at an elevation.
Rods and Nails
Rods and nails are meant to bridge the gap between fragments of bone. For example, if a bone is broken in only one place (thought the break would have to be severe enough to require surgery), a doctor may choose to use a rod or nail to lock the two pieces together to ensure they heal correctly. Though the use of rods and nails still requires surgery, it can have benefits such as the allowance of early weight-baring for those who require it.
Screws are probably the most widely used type of orthopedic device. Able to be used alone or with other devices, screws help the healing process by stabilizing and compressing fragments together. The more compressed fragments are, it is generally believed, the more likely the fracture will heal properly.
Spinal Fixation Devices
Spinal fixation devices, as their name implies, are meant to fix the spine in place or help stabilize it. Typical devices include rods meant to extend or compress the spine. Hooks on either end of the rod go under the transverse or lamina processes to extend or compress the spine. Other forms, like the posterior spinal rod, can work in pairs anchored in multiple places near the affected area.
Wires and Pins
Wires can serve multiple purposes. For instance, the cerclage wire can pull fragments together when placed around the circumference of a bone. Tension band wiring works with the tension caused by the muscle’s natural pull as it tries to tug fragments apart, and instead forces the pieces back together. K-wires work as a relatively non-invasive form of stabilization either temporarily or near the end of the healing process. Pins are also used in stabilization but are almost never used by themselves. They work in tandem with other devices as a way to secure the other device.