Operative management of lower extremity fractures in patients with head injuries.
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Treatment of patients with lower extremity fractures and concomitant head injury is controversial. The authors compared reamed intramedullary nailing versus plating of femoral and tibial fractures in patients with polytrauma and concomitant head injury. One thousand five hundred twenty-five patients with head injuries were identified from a prospective trauma database. Of those, 1211 patients sustained severe head injuries (Abbreviated Injury Score >/= 3). One hundred nineteen patients with severe head injuries and lower extremity long bone fractures met the inclusion criteria. Ultimately, four patient groups were identified: Group A, reamed femoral nail (n = 21); Group B, femoral plate (n = 29); Group C, reamed tibial nail (n = 23); and Group D, tibial plate (n = 46). Reamed intramedullary nails did not significantly alter the risk of mortality when compared with plates in femoral (relative risk 0.46; 95% confidence interval, 0.04-4.6) and tibial (relative risk 1.18; 95% confidence interval, 0.05-11.9) fractures. The severity of the initial head injury (Glasgow Coma Scale score) was the strongest predictor of mortality. Functional independence scores between patients with reamed nails and patients with plates were similar at 1 year. Head injury does not seem to be a contraindication to reamed intramedullary nailing in patients with lower extremity fractures. The severity of head injury alone is an important predictor of outcome. A large, randomized trial with sufficient study power is needed to clarify this issue.
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