K-wires, or Pins
Wires and Pins
During your surgery I may have placed wires or pins into your foot or toes. These are called K-wires. They are designed to provide temporary fixation, and are generally left in place for 4 to 6 weeks. I will remove those in the office, and they generally come out very easily.
K-wires are about 1/20 inch in diameter, and have a sharp point on the end. K-wires are smooth. They are inserted with a device that drills them into the bone.
They are particularly useful to hold toes in place while the tissue heals after an operation. It would be impossible to hold the toes individually with other means, such as a cast.
You may bathe your foot when I tell you, usually after the first post-operative visit. It is fine to bathe the foot with K-wires in place. After bathing, carefully dry around the wires with a towel.
A plastic cap is placed over the end of the pin so the sharp end will not catch in clothes or sheets. If this comes off and becomes lost, you can put a small piece of tape over the end.
Please keep a clean sock over the foot that does not squeeze the wires.
You do not need to apply any medication or salve about the wires, as long as they are kept clean.
Try not to hit the ends of the wires against anything. That may hurt, and can cause irritation where the K-wire enters the skin. That could lead to infection around the pin.
Wearing the post-operative shoe should help protect the ends of the K-wires. You may want to wear that shoe even when in bed, to protect the ends of the pins.
Many people ask if they should get a shot of “numbing medicine” before taking the pins out. Honestly, the pins generally slide out very easily without much discomfort, and any pain is less than what you would feel from getting an injection.
After removal, I will put band-aids on the tips of the toes where there is a tiny hole from the channel the pin formed. That will immediately fill with a blood clot, and you can remove the band-aid after an hour or so.
Sometimes the wires will begin to withdraw on their own, or they may accidently be struck. If that occurs they may become irritated, with redness about them and pain. If you develop pain or redness about the pin, please call the office.
If a pin starts to work its way out, do not try to push it back into the toe. Either leave it alone until I can see you, or you can pull it all the way out. Please contact my office if this occurs.
If you yourself remove a pin, have a band-aid ready, because the end of the toe may ooze some blood when the pin has been removed.
Sometimes the pin may become irritated where it enters the skin. This may be accompanied by redness in the toe and pain. This can lead to an infection. If you see redness in the toe, or it becomes more painful, contact the office.
Rarely, a K-wire may break. I will then remove the part that protrudes through the skin, and usually will leave the deep part in place.
If a K-wire comes out before its time, it will not be providing support for the toe. That may ultimately result in the toe alignment not being satisfactory.
Occasionally I will use larger pins, called Steinmann pins, for temporary fixation. These are primarily useful in some types of 1st MTP Arthrodesis surgery and Ankle Arthrodesis surgery. These are threaded, and usually 3/16 inch in diameter or larger. They are also drilled into place. These are usually left in for a longer time, up to 3 months.
These pins require the same care as K-wires.
Removing threaded Steinmann pins requires a power drill. That is done in the office.