OBJECTIVES: The timing of definitive fixation for major fractures in patients with multiple injuries is controversial. To address this gap, we randomized patients with blunt multiple injuries to either initial definitive stabilization of the femur shaft with an intramedullary nail or an external fixateur with later conversion to an intermedullary nail and documented the postoperative clinical condition. METHODS: Multiply injured patients with femoral shaft fractures were randomized to either initial (<24 hours) intramedullary femoral nailing or external fixation and later conversion to an intramedullary nail. Inclusion: New Injury Severity Score >16 points, or 3 fractures and Abbreviated Injury Scale score ≥2 points and another injury (Abbreviated Injury Scale score ≥2 points), and age 18 to 65 years. Exclusion: patients in unstable or critical condition. Patients were graded as stable or borderline (increased risk of systemic complications). OUTCOMES: Incidence of acute lung injuries. RESULTS: Ten European Centers, 165 patients, mean age 32.7 ± 11.7 years. Group intramedullary nailing, n = 94; group external fixation, n = 71. Preoperatively, 121 patients were stable and 44 patients were in borderline condition. After adjusting for differences in initial injury severity between the 2 treatment groups, the odds of developing acute lung injury were 6.69 times greater in borderline patients who underwent intramedullary nailing in comparison with those who underwent external fixation, P < 0.05. CONCLUSION: Intramedullary stabilization of the femur fracture can affect the outcome in patients with multiple injuries. In stable patients, primary femoral nailing is associated with shorter ventilation time. In borderline patients, it is associated with a higher incidence of lung dysfunctions when compared with those who underwent external fixation and later conversion to intermedullary nail. Therefore, the preoperative condition should be when deciding on the type of initial fixation to perform in patients with multiple blunt injuries.
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