What has gone wrong?
A fractured femur usually follows an injury. Usually, the greater the force of the injury, the more serious the fracture. The broken ends of bone may still be in their correct place (undisplaced), or out of place (displaced).
The aims of the operation are to get the broken ends of the bone back into place (reduction) and to hold them in place while the fracture heals.
The operation will stop your leg hurting. You can get out of bed the day after your operation. You will need crutches, but you can usually put weight on your leg immediately. You will not need a plaster cast.
Are there any alternatives?
If you are not fit enough for surgery, we could treat your fracture without surgery. This would be with bed rest and traction.
Traction means pulling on your femur to overcome shortening, to straighten the femur and to keep the bone ends from moving. We pull on the bone with a steel rod passed through the bottom end of the femur and hold it there with a special splint. You would have to stay in bed for three months while your thighbone healed. You may suffer one of the serious complications that result from staying in bed for a long time. These complications include pressure sores, pneumonia and deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs). These complications can be fatal. In addition, your thighbone may end up much shorter than before and may possibly be bent.
Who should have it done?
If your leg is broken and you are fit enough for surgery, you should have the fracture fixed.
Who should not have it done?
If you suffer major medical problems, these should be sorted out before you have the operation. These problems include irregular heart rhythms and breathing problems.
Author: Mr Boyd Goldie MBBS FRCS BSC DHMSA. Consultant in orthopaedics & trauma.
© Dumas Ltd 2006