Surgical Treatment of Femur Fractures
Femoral shaft fractures are considered major injuries and almost always require surgery to align and immobilize the femur. There are three types of treatment for a femoral shaft fracture:
- During surgery a metal rod, called a intramedullary rod, is inserted into the core of the femur. The rod is secured with screws on either side of the fracture. The intramedullary rod is usually permanently in place. This is the treatment most often recommended.
- The second treatment option is a metal plate placed along the fracture and secured with screws. This method allows for early mobility. The drawback in this method of treatment is that the plate bears the weight during healing, leaving the bone with residual weakness.
- An external fixator is the third option for a femur fracture. The frame or bar is attached to the femur with pins. This may be recommended if there is extensive soft tissue injury with the break. There is the risk of infection at the pin insertion points.
Non-Surgical Treatment of Femur Fractures
Non-surgical treatments are available, but are less popular.
- Traction used to be the standard method of treating a femur fracture. The leg is put in a cast and either adhesives or metal pins are used to attach weighted strings. X-rays have to be taken regularly to check the position of the femur and then adjustments can be made in the placement of the weights. This method is effective, but requires a long hospitalization. If metal pins are used for traction, there is the risk of infection.
- Casting can be done on very young children, with good success. A spica cast is used. It goes the length of the leg, then up over the hips and includes part of the other leg.
Complications with Femur Fractures
A femoral shaft fracture takes 3-6 months to heal. During that time, it is susceptible to infection at pin insertion points and, with some treatment methods, the bone may become displaced due to the strength of the thigh muscles. If the bone is not properly aligned, and kept aligned, the leg may be permanently shorter.
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