Despite the increasing use of flexible intramedullary nailing for the treatment of femoral shaft fractures during growth, the use of acute or delayed plaster fixation is still a widely practised alternative in preschool children. The purpose of this retrospective study was to analyse outcome following acute casting in preschool children with a focus on acceptable initial leg length discrepancy and angulation.

A retrospective study was performed of 46 children with femoral shaft fractures treated conservatively. It was possible to verify the outcome in 22 children with an average follow-up time of 7.5 years. We compared initial shortening and mal-angulation to radiographic data at the time of consolidation and clinical outcome.

Most children sustained their fracture by falling out of bed or from their parent's arm. A hip spica including the foot of the injured side, a pelvic ring and the thigh of the uninjured leg was applied under sedation and manual traction. Mean time of hospital stay was 1.4 days (range, 2 h-20 days). The average immobilisation time was 16.7 days (range, 0-30 days). At follow-up, on average 7.5 years after trauma, only one patient showed a leg length discrepancy greater than 2 cm. One patient showed a minor valgus and rotational deformity.

The long-term outcome for conservatively treated femoral shaft fractures in preschool children is very good, even in severely dislocated fractures. Our data show that even initial shortening of up to 2.5 cm can be treated successfully with a spica cast.

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