Objective: To compare the analgesic benefit of preoperative skin traction with the placement of a pillow under the injured extremity in patients with hip fractures.
Design: Prospective, randomized clinical study.
Setting: University-affiliated teaching institution.
Patients and participants: One hundred consecutive patients with hip fractures admitted to the authors' institution who met inclusion criteria were enrolled. Fifty-five patients had femoral neck fractures, and forty-five patients had intertrochanteric fractures. The average patient age was seventy-eight years.
Intervention: All patients were preoperatively randomized into two intervention groups. One group underwent placement of five pounds of skin traction on the injured extremity, whereas the second underwent placement of a pillow under the injured extremity. Fifty patients were enrolled in each intervention group.
Results: With respect to immediate postintervention pain levels, patients treated with a pillow showed a trend toward better pain relief, as compared with patients treated with skin traction; however, this was not statistically significant. On the morning after admission, patients treated with a pillow had a statistically significant greater reduction in pain (p = 0.04). These patients also requested a statistically significant lower amount of pain medication (p < 0.01).
Conclusions: The authors think that preoperative skin traction in patients with hip fractures does not provide significant pain relief, as compared with pillow placement under the injured extremity, and thus should not be routinely performed in this patient population for analgesia.