Objectives: To compare the advantages and disadvantages of preoperative cutaneous traction versus skeletal traction in adults with diaphyseal femur fractures amenable to fixation within 24 hours.
Design: Randomized prospective trial.
Setting: Level I trauma center in a major metropolitan area.
Patients: Sixty-five patients with 66 femur fractures were prospectively enrolled and randomized to a traction group from July 2009 to July 2010.
Main outcome measurements: Time of application for on call physicians/practitioners, pain relief after application of traction; time of reduction in the operating room theater, and evaluation of pain medication consumption before stabilization.
Results: Thirty-seven patients received cutaneous femoral traction, whereas 29 patients received skeletal traction. There was a significant reduction in time of application for the cutaneous traction (24.30 ± 24.74 minutes) compared with skeletal traction (57.10 ± 33.60 minutes) (P ≤ 0.001). There was no statistically significant difference in visual analog scale (VAS) scores when compared with pretraction application pain assessment and posttraction pain assessment between the cutaneous and skeletal traction groups with a decrease in the VAS of (0.56 ± 3.73 and 0.54 ± 2.76), respectively (P = 0.99). There was no difference in pain medication requirements between groups (0.12 ± 0.17 mg/kg for cutaneous versus 0.09 ± 0.14 mg/kg for skeletal, P = 0.39). There was no significant difference in reduction time of the fracture (skin incision or opening reamer to guide wire passage) in the operating room between cutaneous traction versus skeletal traction (P = 0.59).
Conclusions: Use of cutaneous traction for diaphyseal femur fractures when compared with skeletal traction results in a statistically significant reduction in time of application to the on call practitioner with no complications or detrimental change in operative time and no difference in VAS pain scores or narcotic usage.