A common question asked in relation to circular or hybrid external fixation is, "After tensioning fixation wires, how do I handle the sharp ends?"

Two schools of thought exist; one group prefers to leave wires long and then pigtail or roll them to prevent sharp cut ends from being a hazard. The second group prefers to cut fixation wires as close as possible to their fixation point in order to eliminate the time and effort of curling excess wire below a ring.

Too often, the simple step of cutting a wire leaves an end, although short, that tends to be sharp with potential damage to:

  • hands of owners and technicians during bandage changes
  • surgeon's gloves during surgery

The preventative solution against these dangers is to bend the wire back and forth parallel to the plane of the ring where it is captured by a wire fixation bolt or washer. If performed properly, the wire is broken at or below the edge of the fixation hardware leaving the sharp end hidden and unable to cause damage.  However, if the wire is broken by bending back and forth perpendicular to the plane of the ring (parallel to the long axis of the bone), the sharp end is often left a bit exposed with potential for trauma.

Editor's Note: Some surgeons prefer to leave fixation wires long and straight until radiographs are complete, then break or pigtail fixation wires if revisions are not required.