Pre-operative traction for fractures of the proximal femur.

M. J. Parker, Helen Handoll

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Pre-operative traction following an acute hip fracture remains standard practice in some hospitals. OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effects of traction applied to the injured limb prior to surgery for a fractured hip. Different methods of applying traction (skin or skeletal) were considered. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Injuries Group's specialised register (February 2003), the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (The Cochrane Library Issue 1, 2003), MEDLINE (1966 to February 2003), EMBASE (1988 to 2003 Week 8), CINAHL (1982 to February 2003), the National Research Register Issue 1, 2003, conference proceedings and reference lists of articles. Date of most recent search: February 2003. SELECTION CRITERIA: All randomised or quasi-randomised trials comparing either skin or skeletal traction with no traction, or skin with skeletal traction for patients with an acute hip fracture prior to surgery. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Both reviewers independently assessed trial quality, using a nine item scale, and extracted data. Additional information was sought from all trialists. Wherever appropriate and possible, the data are presented graphically. MAIN RESULTS: Eight randomised trials, mainly of moderate quality, involving a total of 1349 predominantly elderly patients, were identified and included in the review. The inclusion in this review update of a newly available trial resulted in no important change in the results or conclusions. Seven trials compared traction with no traction. Although no data pooling was possible, overall these provided no evidence of benefit from traction, either in the relief of pain, ease of fracture reduction or quality of fracture reduction at time of surgery. One of these trials included both skin and skeletal traction groups. This trial and one other compared skeletal traction with skin traction and found no important differences between these two methods, although the initial application of skeletal traction was noted as being more painful and more costly. REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: From the evidence available, the routine use of traction (either skin or skeletal) prior to surgery for a hip fracture does not appear to have any benefit. However, the evidence is also insufficient to rule out the potential advantages for traction, in particular for specific fracture types, or to confirm additional complications due to traction use. Further, high quality trials would be required to confirm or refute the absence of benefits of traction.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


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