NHS urged to review all x-rays for patients who have had surgery involving metal plates for limb fractures over the past year

Today the NHS and the British Orthopaedic Association has asked all hospitals providing orthopaedic surgery in England to review x-rays for patients who have had surgery where metal plates were used to fix certain limb fractures such as the forearm, femur, humerus, or tibial fractures.  

NHS Improvement was made aware of seven incidents at one NHS trust where the wrong type of fracture fixation plate was used to treat a limb fracture. In one of these instances a patient fell and the plate buckled, meaning the patient needed further surgery.

The improvement body has found that recent changes in the designs of some reconstruction plates has meant that two plates (reconstruction plates and dynamic compression plates) are now similar in appearance. 

National Director for Patient Safety, Dr Aidan Fowler, said: “When we identify patient safety issues it is important that we act to reduce the risk of them being repeated.”

“We are asking all hospitals in England who provide orthopaedic surgery to review x-rays for their patients who have had surgery involving plates in the past year.”

“Patients should not be alarmed and do not need to take any action themselves. The risk of harm is low and their local hospital will contact them if there is a chance that they have been affected.”

The British Orthopaedic Association is concerned that the wrong type of fixation plate may have been used in other hospitals and that more patients may be affected if their fractures have not fully healed.

The dynamic compression plates that should be used for treating some fractures are stronger and more rigid. Whereas reconstruction plates are more flexible as they may need to be reshaped for use in more complex surgery.