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Orthopedic Trauma

Dr. Alexandra Schwarz discusses bone fractures.

UC San Diego Health System has an orthopedic trauma clinic as well as a Trauma Center that's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Orthopedic trauma specialists are available at both locations to treat people who have sustained musculoskeletal injuries such as fractures, ligament tears, tendon tears and joint dislocations.

Our orthopedic trauma specialists work closely with vascular surgeons, plastic and microvascular surgeons, infectious disease specialists and anesthesiologists to treat complicated injuries and infections.

Injuries We Treat

  • Any fracture of the shoulder, arm, forearm, thigh, lower leg, ankle, foot and pelvis
  • Joint dislocations (e.g., shoulder dislocations, hip dislocations, knee dislocations, multi-ligament knee injuries, and foot and ankle dislocations)
  • Problems that arise after a fracture (e.g., nonunions, malunions and deep bone infections)

Nonsurgical Treatment

Dominique's Amazing Story

“I was aware of a crowd gathering around me. I heard voices saying: stay with us…”

Watch Dominique's story of harrowing traumatic injury and the medical team that saved her.

Some fractures and dislocations do not require surgery and can be healed with casts, braces and/or splints.

These include fractures of the:

  • Clavicle
  • Scapula
  • Humerus
  • Wrist
  • Hand
  • Foot

To prevent stiffness and expedite recovery for these types of fractures, we work closely with physical therapists and occupational therapists to optimize early range of motion gains in the affected joint.

Minimally Invasive Orthopedic Options 

Minimally invasive surgery is preferred over open techniques for its faster recovery time, lower risk of complications and pain, and lower chances of swelling following surgery.

Minimally invasive procedures and techniques we offer:

External Fixation

External fixation involves the placement of pins into bone and then connecting those pins to bars on the outside of the skin. This is often temporary and used when it’s unsafe to perform definitive surgery immediately. An example is in the case of periarticular fractures (those in and around joints), where soft tissue swelling may prevent early surgery from being done due to the risk of infection. Other types of external fixators (small wire fixators) are used for certain fractures (nonunions and malunions) and bone transplant.

Intramedullary Rodding

Intramedullary rodding is commonly used for fractures of the femur and tibia. This procedure is done with small incisions and often allows patients to bear weight on the extremity soon after the surgery. The rod is placed inside the canal of the bone and then screws are placed through the rod and bone to maintain alignment of the limb. Additional casting is not needed.

Plates and Screws

Plates and screws are most often utilized when a bone break is in or near a joint, which includes certain fractures involving the shoulder, elbow, forearm, hip, knee and ankle. The bones are moved back into proper position and a plate with screws is used to hold the fracture in place until it heals. Most often, additional casting is not needed and patients are allowed to begin moving their joints soon after surgery. Our orthopedic surgeons are on the leading-edge of plating technology. We perform advanced minimally invasive plating techniques, allowing for smaller scars, less soft tissue problems and faster healing.

Read more about advances in orthopedic surgery taking place through our research and clinical trials.

Orthopedic Specialists

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Informative videos on your procedure

Register to watch brief and informative Emmi education programs on orthopedic trauma procedures.

Read Patient Testimonials