Skeletal traction is usually a temporary device for stabilization of the polytraumatized patient, if a spanning external fixator is for some reason not possible. In general, it would be left on for several days, up to 2 weeks. After this time, definitive surgical stabilization of the distal femoral fracture would be performed.
If the patient is treated definitively with skeletal traction, then a complete nursing care program should be provided that will deal with nutrition, mobilization, physiotherapy, DVT prophylaxis and skin ulcer prevention.
The traction pin sites require regular dressing. If pin site infection occurs this will need to be treated with pin removal, replacement with another pin and appropriate antibiotics and topical antiseptic application.
Inherent in this temporary stabilization are the problems of immobility, pain control, bed sores and heel ulcers. These issues must be carefully addressed during the period of skeletal traction.
Thrombo-prophylaxis should be given according to local treatment guidelines.