3 types of orthopaedic implants you need to know before undergoing surgery

As people begin to age, they may start experiencing pain in their joints and bones. This pain can be acute, especially if someone suffers a traumatic injury in an accident or if their joints or bones are degenerating due to a chronic condition. In such a case, they may need to consult an orthopaedic surgeon to determine the course of treatment. In case the pain is not managed with medication, an orthopaedic implant may be deemed the best solution. The implant helps stabilise the muscular system and improves mobility and flexibility in the patient. Let’s understand what are orthopaedic implants and what the different types of orthopaedic implants are.

What are orthopaedic implants?

An orthopaedic implant is a medical device designed to replace a bone, joint, or cartilage due to damage or deformity. For instance, a patient may need an implant due to a congenital disability, losing a limb or breaking a leg. The implant assists with bone fixation and may be used to replace the articulating surfaces in different joints in the body. A patient may be experiencing pain in joints and bones, which may require repairing, and the implant is used to strengthen or entirely replace the joints in the damaged bones or regions.

The orthopaedic surgeon inserts the implants into the body through various surgical methods, depending on the patient’s condition. Suppose a joint is worsened beyond a specific point. In that case, the surgeon removes the injured joint and then replaces it with an orthopaedic implant while utilising various orthopaedic instruments specially designed for the surgery.

Most orthopaedic implants are made of titanium alloys and stainless steel, and a few of them may even be lined with plastic. The metallic structure provides the implant with the necessary strength, while the plastic lining serves as artificial cartilage. Typically, the implant is fitted into place, enabling the bone to grow into it for improved strength. In some cases, the surgeon may also cement the orthopaedic implant to enhance adhesion.

Types of orthopaedic implants

Let’s look at the various types of orthopaedic implants and their uses.

Screws. A screw is a type of orthopaedic implant that resembles the screws you may find at any hardware store. However, an orthopaedic screw may either have a flat head or a crosshead. The primary function of screws used during orthopaedic implants is to produce compression, which helps mend the bones in the injured area. The screw is used to tighten the damaged areas, such as the rotator cuff or the torn labrum. The orthopaedic surgeon may also use screws to repair a fractured bone or restore stability in a weak area. The screws may be implanted permanently. They come in various forms and sizes; for instance, a reduction screw could have a thickness of 4.5 to 8.5 millimetres. 

Plates. First used in 1886 for fixing long bone fractures, orthopaedic plates are still commonly used in orthopaedic surgeries. They are of different types as under:

  • Buttress plates: These are used for holding together fractures occurring in the knee and ankle if there are large compressive and distorting forces. Buttress plates are contoured and can move with the body and maybe L or T-shaped.
  • Neutralisation Plates: This is a category of plates that works to span a fractured area. They balance the load enabling screws and other types of orthopaedic implants to secure and stabilise the area.
  • Bridging plates: These types of orthopaedic implants provide length and alignment and help stabilise the area while promoting secondary bone healing.
  • Tension Plates: These are typically wires which are used in securing an area while it heals.
  • Compression plates: These are metallic plates used for repairing bones by using dynamic pressure between the bone fragments, thus promoting healing.

Prostheses. Another type of orthopaedic implant, prosthesis, is used to replace missing bones or joints. It may also be used to provide the support required by damaged bones. This implant is typically used for knees and hips and enables patients to regain their physical strength and activity in a relatively short time frame. Sometimes, the surgeon may combine prosthetic materials with healthy bones to replace damaged or diseased bones or to replace certain parts of a bone entirely.

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