There are many injuries that can be treated without surgery as the body has a great capacity to heal itself. Most ligament injuries can be managed with protective splints and rehabilitation as the injury heals, and certain fractures are usually treated without surgery as well, for example, injuries to the smaller bones in the foot, and minor fractures around the pelvis. Not all patients are medically fit for operations, therefore there is always a balance of risks and benefits that our team will consider for each patient.
It is important to note however that the non-operative treatment of injuries does not mean no treatment! Usually the injury has to be protected whilst it is healing as this helps with pain relief, avoids further injury and allows rehabilitation to start sooner. This could potentially mean a plaster, sling, or removable splint or brace. Although some of these options are available direct from the fracture clinic, more complex supports will require a prescribed device that is fitted by a specialist team.
In the first few weeks following your injury, rehabilitation will typically involve physiotherapy. At this stage, your treating surgeon will usually follow you in the fracture clinic as well – this isn’t only to monitor progress, but to also make sure that the sustained injury has not worsened over time. Fractures that are not operated on can sometimes lose position with time, and x-rays at certain intervals can tell us whether the fracture position is stable or not.
In general however, most fractures where a decision is made to manage the injury without surgery, will go on to heal uneventfully.