External Fixation of Femoral Fractures in Children Clinical, radiological and functional outcome and cost analysis

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis was to evaluate the outcome when treating children for displaced femoral fractures with external fixation.In a consecutive and prospective study during the period 1993-2000, 96 children aged 3-15 years with 98 displaced femoral fractures were treated with external fixation and early mobilisation. The mean age was 8.1 years, the mean hospital stay was 8.7 days and the mean treatment time was 61 days. All fractures healed. Minor complications included pin tract infections (18%), clinical insignificant malunions, heterotopic ossification and two re-reductions. Major complications (6%) included two re-fractures after significant trauma and three plastic deformations after premature fixator removal leading to an osteotomy.Radiological evaluation was performed up to one year for the whole group and for a subgroup up to two years. The evaluation showed that malunions were few and prone to remodelling almost completely. Although the fractures were fixated without shortening, as recommended earlier, the overgrowth was far less than expected.Isokinetic muscle strength was measured in both hamstrings and quadriceps in 31 of the patients and compared with 31 matched children without previous injury to the legs. Early mobilisation seems to prevent residual muscle weakness previously shown after treatment with traction or cast for femoral fractures in children.A cost analysis was performed, comparing three different treatment modalities of femoral shaft fractures: traction in hospital, traction in hospital/at home and external fixation. The analysis included both total medical costs and costs for the care provider. The most important factors were days spent at the hospital and the sick leave for the care provider. Treatment that can minimise these factors will contribute strongly to a lowering of health care costs.Conclusion: External fixation of displaced femoral fractures in children can be used as standard treatment in children aged 3-15 years. The treatment provides satisfactory results with a low rate of major complications. Early mobilisation seems to prevent residual muscle weakness. The treatment reduce the number of days in hospital and the number of days of sick leave for the care provider and contributes strongly to lowering health care costs.