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A retrospective review of patients treated with internal fixation of fractures or dislocations of the hand or wrist over a four-year period was undertaken to determine the complication rates of pin fixation for stabilization of these injuries. One hundred thirty-seven patients who received 422 pins were studied. All pins were unthreaded, measured 0.035-0.069 inches (0.9-1.8 mm) in diameter, were placed with a power drill, and were left protruding through the skin. The mean time that pins were left in place was 6.5 weeks, (range, two days to 24 weeks). Minimum follow-up time was 43 days after pin removal. Thirty-four complications occurred in 24 patients, and the overall complication rate was 18%. Forty-five of the 422 pins were involved (11%). Complications included infections in ten patients (7%), pin loosening without infection in six (4%), loss of reduction in six (4%), symptomatic nonunion in six (4%), impaled flexor tendon in two (2%), asymptomatic pseudarthrosis in one (1%), pin migration in one (1%), median nerve injury in one (1%), and radial artery injury in one (1%). Osteomyelitis developed in two of the patients with infections. Pin tract infection occurred at a mean time of ten weeks and aseptic loosening at a mean time of eight weeks. The frequent complication rates emphasize the need for meticulous pin placement, adequate intraoperative evaluation of pin position, and satisfactory patient compliance. Despite the frequency of these complications, serious permanent sequelae did not occur in most patients.

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