Patients fitted with metal plates may have to have them removed

Thousands of patients could need metal plates REMOVED after the NHS fitted the wrong types to fix broken bones

  • Hospitals have been ordered to review the X-rays of around 5,500 patients
  • Seven patients had flexible plates fitted rather than rigid ones
  • Two patients fell, causing their plates to buckle, requiring further surgery 

Thousands of patients who had surgery on broken bones face further treatment after it emerged some were fitted with the wrong type of metal plate.

Hospitals have been ordered to review the X-rays of around 5,500 patients treated with plates for the fracture of long bones, such as arms and legs, in the past year.

The NHS and British Orthopaedic Association announced a national review after it was revealed seven patients at one trust had flexible plates, designed for reconstruction, inserted rather than rigid ones.  

Two of the cases involved patients falling, causing the plate to buckle and meaning they needed further operations to correct the injury.

Another patient needed additional surgery after their plate failed when they were having post-operative physiotherapy.

Thousands of patients who had surgery on broken bones face further treatment after it emerged some were fitted with the wrong type of metal plate (stock)

Patients at the unnamed trust were not treated by the same surgeon, leading to fears the mistake may be more widespread.

Officials estimate most of the 141 NHS trusts in England will have performed the procedure for long bone fractures such as the forearm, thigh bone (femur), upper arm bone (humerus), or shin bone (tibia).

They have until May to review patient X-rays to check the wrong plates have not been fitted.

Any affected patients will be contacted by their hospital to determine whether further treatment is necessary.

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Recent changes in the designs of some reconstruction plates has meant two plates – reconstruction plates and dynamic compression plates – are now similar in appearance, the hospital regulator said.

It is estimated 30-to-40 patients at each trust in England could have had a plate fitted – which may amount to more than 5,500 patients needing a review, NHS Improvement said.

Dynamic compression plates, which are used for some fractures, are stronger and more rigid than reconstruction plates.


Almost 300,000 more NHS operations could be carried out every year if schedules were better organised and staff planned leave earlier, a review found earlier this month.

Booking time off six weeks in advance and agreeing lists of operations a month ahead could lead to 5,600 extra procedures being carried out a week.

The analysis – by watchdog NHS Improvement – found making schedules more efficient would reduce the backlog of patients waiting for elective operations, such as hip and knee replacements. 

The latter are more flexible as they may need to be reshaped for use in more complex surgery.

NHS Improvement said while most fractures heal quickly, it can take up to a year.

Therefore, patients whose fractures have not fully healed could be at risk of the plate going wrong if they have had the wrong one inserted.

Dr Aidan Fowler, of NHS Improvement, 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.’

Any hospital that finds an incorrect plate has been fitted should work with the patient on a care plan, NHS Improvement said.

It should also report the incident to NHS Improvement, carry out a serious incident investigation and change theatre processes to ensure the two types of plate are not confused.

It said NHS hospitals have now been asked to only purchase reconstruction plates that come in individual sterilised packs.


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