Types of Orthopedic Implants

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, university student Victor Frankenstein dreams of creating a living being. He spends years holed up in his dormer, building his 8-ft., yellow-skinned masterpiece out of cadaver parts and organic material. When the creature is brought to life, Victor is appalled and immediately refutes the creature, leaving him to wander the earth in search of meaning and compassion, condemning him to a life of pain and suffering. Sounds pretty heavy, right?

While orthopedists don’t create life, they do try and do everything they can to improve our quality of life, which not only can add meaning to our lives, but allows us to live without the pain and suffering that chronic pain or injury can bring. And that’s where orthopedic implants come in. Implants are used as replacements of body parts, and more often than not, the results are life-altering.

The three most common types of orthopedic implants are screws, plates, and prostheses, and you can be sure that once your hardware is in place, you will feel like your orthopedist has brought you back to life! 


Looking nearly identical to the screws you might find at a hardware store, orthopedic screws can have either a flat or Phillips head, and are used to tighten up damaged areas, such as a torn labrum or rotator cuff. Expect your orthopedist to use screws to repair fractured bone or restore stability in a weak area, and do not expect to have them removed. Typically, your screws are there to stay.


Orthopedic plates were first used to fix long bone fractures in 1886 – more than 50 years after Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Perhaps these doctors were inspired by this horror masterpiece? It is doubtful, because plates were then and remain a most successful treatment for fractures, reconstruction and stability. There are five primary types of plates:

  • Buttress plates are used to hold together fractures at the end of long bones, in particular, at the knee and ankle, where the fracture site experiences large compressive and other distorting forces. These plates are contoured so they can move with the body, however, some may be L- or T-shaped.
  • Neutralization plates are not a specific plate, but rather, a category of plates that work to span the fractured area, balancing the load so that screws or other devices can secure and stabilize the area.
  • Bridging plates are used to stabilize the area while providing length and alignment. Additionally, bridging plates promote secondary bone healing because they preserve the blood supply to the fracture fragments by not disrupting the damaged area.
  • Tension plates usually are wires used to secure an area as it heals.
  • Compression plates are metallic plates used to repair a bone by using dynamic pressure between bone fragments to promote healing.


Orthopedists use a variety of orthopedic prosthetic implants to replace missing joints or bones, or to provide support to a damaged bone. Most commonly, orthopedists use prostheses for knees and hips, allowing the patients to regain full range of motion, pain-free, in a relatively short amount of time. In some cases, the prosthetic material can be combined with healthy bone to replace diseased or damaged bone, or prostheses can replace certain parts of a joint bone entirely.

Getting an orthopedic implant isn’t crazy science fiction; in fact, it offers the best surgical outcome for patients looking to reduce joint pain and restore mobility. OrthoUnited is your partner when it comes to you and your family’s orthopedic health. To request an appointment, call (844) 469-2663 or go online using our interactive appointment request form.