All patients are taught how to look after pin sites before leaving hospital. Pin sites need to be cleaned to keep them free from infection and to stop them from weeping. Pin sites will weep for a while after surgery, but the aim of good pin site care is to stop them weeping as quickly as possible after surgery.
There has been much debate about the best way to look after pin sites and many scientific articles have been written on the subject. In reality, there is little evidence to say that one system is better than another.
Some departments and surgeons say the pin sites should be covered daily and kept dry. There is also a debate as to whether the scabs should be removed. Other surgeons feel that clean, dry pin sites can be left open to the air.
Most surgeons do agree that a daily shower helps. This includes dousing the frame liberally with water. But whether you should use suds or not remains a subject for debate.
This conflicting information can be confusing for patients who may even get different instructions by the professionals who care for them. The main thing to remember is that there are many different approaches, and you should follow the routine that your surgeon recommends for you.
What if things go wrong?
Pins going through muscle tend to cause more problems than those going directly into bone. Particularly troublesome pins sometimes have to be removed. Others can be removed after they have done their work in the initial phase of the treatment.
If a pin area becomes increasingly painful, it is usually an indication that it has become infected. At King's we issue all patients with a prescription for antibiotics to take if a pin site becomes infected.
If you think you have an infection you are encouraged to call our limb reconstruction nurse for advice, and take the antibiotics. If appropriate, you will also be given an appointment in the next weekly clinic. If the infection is severe we admit people to hospital for intravenous antibiotics (via a drip) and, rarely, to change the pin.
If you are not a King's patient, you should contact your own medical team for advice.