Timing of definitive treatment of femoral shaft fractures in patients with multiple injuries: a systematic review of randomized and nonrandomized trials

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012 Nov;73(5):1046-63. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182701ded.


Background: Optimal timing of definitive treatment of femoral shaft fractures in patients with multiple injuries remains controversial. This study aimed to determine the impact of timing of definitive treatment (early, delayed, or damage-control orthopedics [DCO]) of femoral shaft fractures on the incidence of adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), mortality rate, and hospital length of stay (LOS) in patients with multiple injuries.

Methods: A systematic review of published English-language reports using MEDLINE (1946-2011), Embase (1947-2011), and Cochrane Library. Search terms included femoral fractures, multiple trauma, fracture fixation, and time factors. This study reviewed randomized and nonrandomized studies that (1) compared early and delayed treatment or early treatment and DCO and (2) reported the incidence of ARDS, mortality rate, or LOS. Extraction of articles was performed by one of the authors using predefined data fields.

Results: Thirty-eight studies met our inclusion criteria. Studies were grouped into heterogeneous injuries with early versus delayed treatment (17 studies), heterogeneous injuries with early versus DCO (8 studies), head injury (13 studies), and chest injury (7 studies). Most of the studies (≥ 50%) reporting ARDS and mortality rate showed no difference in each of these groups. However, 6 of 7 and 2 of 3 studies reporting LOS in the heterogeneous injuries with early versus delayed and heterogeneous injuries with early versus DCO, respectively, showed shorter stay for early treatment. Pooled analyses were not conducted owing to changes in critical care delivery during the study period and variations in definitions of early treatment, ARDS, and multiple injuries. Thirty-five reports were based on nonrandomized trials and were subject to biases inherent in retrospective studies. The review process was limited by language and publication status.

Conclusion: The literature suggests that early definitive treatment may be used safely for most patients with multiple injuries. However, a subgroup of patients with multiple injuries may benefit from DCO [corrected].

Level of evidence: Systematic review, level III.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Femoral Fractures / complications
  • Femoral Fractures / mortality
  • Femoral Fractures / surgery*
  • Fracture Fixation*
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Length of Stay
  • Multiple Trauma / mortality
  • Multiple Trauma / pathology
  • Multiple Trauma / surgery*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Time Factors