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Frequency of Instrument Breakage During Orthopaedic Procedures and Its Effects on Patients

Pichler, Wolfgang MD; Mazzurana, Peter MD; Clement, Hans MD; Grechenig, Stephan; Mauschitz, Renate MD; Grechenig, Wolfgang MD; Ass. Prof.

Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery - American Volume: 01 December 2008 - Volume 90 - Issue 12 - p 2652–2654
doi: 10.2106/JBJS.H.00163
Scientific Articles
Supplementary Content

Background: While breakage of an orthopaedic instrument is a relatively rare occurrence, orthopaedic surgeons need to be familiar with this complication and how to deal with it. Relatively little information about this subject has been published.

Methods: Every case of instrument breakage during orthopaedic procedures performed in two hospitals during a two-year period was documented prospectively. All patients were followed for a postoperative period ranging from twelve to thirty-six months, during which radiographs in two planes were made to assess changes in, or migration of, the broken object.

Results: During the observation period, 11,856 surgical procedures were performed in the two hospitals. The overall rate of instrument breakage was 0.35%. The broken piece was removed in five cases, and the broken instrument was left in situ in thirty-seven cases. During the follow-up period, none of the patients had any symptoms.

Conclusions: In most cases, breakage of an orthopaedic instrument is not a problem. Any instance of instrument breakage should be fully documented in the surgical report.

1Department of Traumatology, Medical University of Graz, Auenbruggerplatz 7a, A-8036 Graz, Austria. E-mail address for W. Pichler:

2Division of Orthopaedics, Bolzano Central Hospital, Via L. Böhler 5, 39100 Bolzano, Italy

Copyright 2008 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
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