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Intramedullary nail of femur fracture:

If you are considering surgery on a fracture of the femur, or have an operation planned, it is useful to know all you can about it. This includes:


  • why you need this operation

  • what it will be like

  • how it will affect you

  • what risks are involved

  • any alternatives.


The information here is a guide to common medical practice. Each hospital and doctor will have slightly different ways of doing things, so you should follow their guidance where it is different from the information given here. Because all patients, conditions and treatments vary it cannot cover everything. Use this information when making your choice of treatment for a fracture of the femur  with your doctors. You should mention any worries you have. Remember that you can ask for more information at any time.


What is the problem?

Your thighbone is broken. The thighbone is called the femur. A break is also called a fracture.


There is no difference in severity between a fractured bone and a broken bone. Therefore your injury may be called a fractured femur.


What is the femur?

The thighbone or femur is the bone in the upper leg that goes from the hip to the knee.

Femur 2

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 aim

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 benefits

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

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