Background: While breakage of an orthopaedic instrument is a relatively rare occurrence, orthopaedic surgeons need to be familiar with this complication and how to deal with it. Relatively little information about this subject has been published.
Methods: Every case of instrument breakage during orthopaedic procedures performed in two hospitals during a two-year period was documented prospectively. All patients were followed for a postoperative period ranging from twelve to thirty-six months, during which radiographs in two planes were made to assess changes in, or migration of, the broken object.
Results: During the observation period, 11,856 surgical procedures were performed in the two hospitals. The overall rate of instrument breakage was 0.35%. The broken piece was removed in five cases, and the broken instrument was left in situ in thirty-seven cases. During the follow-up period, none of the patients had any symptoms.
Conclusions: In most cases, breakage of an orthopaedic instrument is not a problem. Any instance of instrument breakage should be fully documented in the surgical report.