Flexible intramedullary nails with traction versus plaster cast for treating femoral shaft fractures in children: comparative retrospective study.
ABSTRACT CONTEXT AND OBJECTIVE Femoral fractures are common in children between 2 and 12 years of age, and 75% of the lesions affect the femoral shaft. Traction followed by a plaster cast is universally accepted as conservative treatment. However, in some situations, a surgical approach is recommended. The objective here was to compare treatments for femoral shaft fractures using intramedullary nails (titanium elastic nails, TEN) versus traction and plaster casts in children. The hypothesis was that TEN might provide better treatment, with good clinical results in comparison with plaster casts. DESIGN AND SETTING This retrospective comparative study was conducted in a public university hospital. METHODS Sixty children with femoral fractures were evaluated; 30 of them underwent surgical treatment with TEN and 30 were treated conservatively using plaster casts. The patients' ages ranged from 5 to 13 years (mean of 9 years). RESULTS The mean duration of hospitalization was nine days for the surgical group and 20 days for the conservative group. The incidence of overgrowth in the patients treated with TEN was 60.0% and, for those treated conservatively, 13.3%. Partial weight-bearing was allowed after 3.5 weeks in the surgical group and after 9.6 weeks in the conservative group. New hospitalization was required for 90.0% in the surgical group and 16.7% in the conservative group. Patients treated with plaster casts presented higher incidence of complications, such as loss of reduction. CONCLUSIONS The surgical method presented better results for children.