Keeping the Pin Sites Clean After Surgery
Your child may not be allowed to shower for approximately five to seven days after the external fixation device is attached to the limb. If your child has an incision, they may not be able to shower until the stitches or staples are removed.
During the first few days after attachment, expect clear yellow or slightly bloody drainage from the pin sites. To remove this drainage, soak a cotton swab in normal saline. Rub the cotton swab on the pin site and move outward, using a circular motion. Each cotton swab should be used only once and then thrown away. Cotton swabs also may be used to remove dried blood and scabs from the pin sites and help keep the skin from sticking to the pins. Be careful not to irritate the skin. Excessive skin motion on the pin may cause infection.
Back at Home: Proper Pin Care
A major responsibility that you perform once you are home is making sure the pin sites are cleaned every day.
Step 1: Wash your hands thoroughly. Prepare the things you need for cleaning the pin sites, which consist of:
- A cleaning solution made of one-half peroxide and one-half saline.
- A disposable cup to hold the cleaning solution.
- Cotton swabs.
- A bag for getting rid of all waste material.
Step 2: Gently massage the skin around each pin with the tips of your fingers, to make sure that the skin around the pin site is free to move slightly. This helps bring any drainage to the surface of the skin where it can be cleaned away, reducing the risk of infection.
Step 3: Dip your cotton swab briefly in the cleaning solution. Clean in a circular motion all around the first pin site, making sure to remove any crusting. Use a new cotton swab until the site is completely clean. Dry the pin site with a dry cotton swab. Repeat this process for every pin site, using a clean cotton swab for every pin. It is important to use a different cotton swab for each pin site because this helps to reduce the chance of spreading an infection from one pin site to another.
Showering / Swimming
When showering, clean the pin sites with an antibacterial soap and water. As long as there are no open wounds your child can shower with the external fixator in place. Wash the external fixator as well as the limb in the shower using antibacterial soap, and allow the soap and water to run down the limb. Do not scrub.
Rinse and dry the fixator and the limb thoroughly. (Use a hair dryer on cool setting.) For your child’s safety, consider placing a rubber mat in the tub, using a shower chair and installing handrails in the shower.
Any activities that involve soaking the external fixator in potentially contaminated water are discouraged. Your child may be allowed to swim in a clean, chlorinated pool, but should avoid natural ocean waters, rivers and lakes.