Low incidence of neurovascular complications after placement of proximal tibial traction pins

Garret Sobol, Peter Gibson, Param Patel, Kenneth Koury, Michael Sirkin, Mark Reilly, Mark Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Skeletal tibial traction is a temporizing measure used preoperatively for femoral fractures to improve the length and alignment of the limb and provide pain relief. The goal of this study was to identify possible neurovascular morbidity associated with the use of bedside skeletal tibial traction to treat femur fractures. All femoral fractures treated with proximal tibial traction during a 10- year period at an urban level I trauma center were retrospectively reviewed. The medical record was reviewed to determine whether a pin-related complication had occurred. Records also were reviewed to identify ipsilateral multiligamentous knee injuries that were not diagnosed until after the application of traction. In total, 303 proximal tibial traction pins were placed. A total of 7 (2.3%; 95% confidence interval, 0.60%-4.0%) pin-related neurologic complications and zero vascular complications were noted. All complications involved motor and/or sensory deficits in the distribution of the peroneal nerve. Of the 7 complications, 6 resolved fully after surgery and removal of the pin. After traction placement, 6 (2.0%) ipsilateral multiligamentous knee injuries were diagnosed. None of these patients had a neurovascular complication. This study suggests that bedside placement of proximal tibial traction for femoral fractures is associated with a low incidence of neurovascular complications and that traction can be safely placed at the bedside by residents. A thorough neurovascular examination should be performed before insertion, and care should be taken to identify the proper starting point and reduce soft tissue trauma during pin placement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1004-e1008
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


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