Traction for Treating Fractures or Broken Bones

Man in full body cast
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Traction is used to manage fractures in an effort to realign broken bones; it is most often used as a temporary treatment when operative fixation is not an option for a period of time.

Traction can either be applied through the skin (skin traction) or through pins inserted into bones (skeletal traction).

Buck's Traction

Skin traction is generally less desirable due to the fact that skin can be injured when pressure is applied for extended periods of time. Skin traction, also called Buck's traction, is commonly used in patients who have a hip fracture. Skin traction is never a long-term treatment for a broken bone, but it can help to control pain for short times prior to a definitive surgical procedure. When a bone breaks, the muscles and tendons can pull the extremity into a shortened position. This can cause painful movement at the fracture site and significant muscle cramping. Skin traction can apply a gentle pulling force to help control movement and restore muscle tension.

Skeletal Traction

Skeletal traction is a more robust form of traction and allows much more significant force to be applied to the injured extremity. Because pins are placed directly into the bone around the break, more control is placed at the site of the break. Skeletal traction does have the disadvantage of complications associated with pin insertion, and infections can occur at the sites of pin insertion.

Traction is used less commonly in developed countries and surgical solutions are available for most fracture types. However, there are some specific situations where traction can be very beneficial. Among the most common reasons to use traction include severe soft-tissue injuries around the site of the fracture that can make surgical treatment impossible. Traction allows your doctors to better control the broken bones, while still being able to manage soft-tissue injuries.

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