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Traction produces a reduction through the surrounding soft parts which align the fragments by their tension.

When the shaft of a long bone is fractured the elastic retraction of muscles surrounding the bone tends to produce over-riding of the fragments. This tendency is greater when the muscles are powerful and long bellied as in the thigh, when the fracture is imperfectly immobilised so that there is pain and therefore muscle spam and when the fracture is mechanically unstable because the fragments are not in apposition or because the fracture line is oblique.

Continuous traction generated by weights and pulleys in addition to causing reduction of a deformity will also produce a relative fixation of the fragments by the rigidity conferred by the surrounding soft tissue structures when under tension. It also enables maintenance of alignment while at the same time it is possible to devise apparatus which permit joint movement.

Traction may be applied through traction tapes attached to skin by adhesives or by direct pull by transfixing pins through or onto the skeleton.

Traction must always be apposed by counter traction or the pull exerted against a fixed object, otherwise it mealy pulls the patient down or off the bed.

Traction requires constant care and vigilance and is costly in terms of the length of hospital stay and all the hazards of prolonged bed rest - thromboembolism, decubiti, pneumonia and atelectasis must be considered when traction is used

Excessive traction which leads to distraction of the fracture is undesirable. Once the fracture is reduced a decreasing amount of weight is required to maintain a reduction once the muscle stretch reflex has been overcome and the fracture immobilised. For a femoral fracture no more than 10lbs should be used and for fractures of the tibia and upper limb less weight is required.

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