Lateral vs. Supine Positioning for Femoral Intramedullary Nailing: A Systematic Review of Comparative Studies


  • Mohamed Sarraj McMaster University
  • Daniel E Axelrod McMaster University
  • Sarah Zhu McMaster University
  • Herman Johal McMaster University


trauma, long bone fracture, femur fracture


Femoral shaft fractures are devastating injuries that usually result from high-energy mechanisms in victims of poly-trauma. Reamed and statically locked intramedullary nailing (IMN) is the definitive treatment modality for femoral shaft fractures. Patients are most commonly positioned either supine or lateral decubitus. There remains considerable concern regarding the safety of lateral positioning in the traumatized patient, particularly in the management of a potentially difficult airway or concomitant C-spine injuries. We therefore undertook a systematic review of intraoperative positioning among patients with femoral shaft fractures following PRISMA guidelines. Title and abstract screening, full text screening, and data abstraction were all completed in duplicate. Methodological Index for Nonrandomized Studies (MINORS) scores were used to evaluate methodological quality. Results: 3018 studies were included in initial screening, with three studies ultimately meeting all inclusion criteria. A total of 1,949 patients were analyzed, with 684 patients treated in lateral positioning and 1,215 patients in supine positioning. Level of agreement was strong across title (κ = 0.872; 95% CI 0.794 to 0.951), abstract (κ = 0.801; 95% CI 0.585 to 1.000), and full-text screening (κ = 1.000). The consensus mean MINORS score of included studies was 17.67 ± 0.58, indicating good to high quality of evidence. Neither patient positioning offered obvious benefits such as fewer complications or shorter operative time.  Furthermore, length of admission, days in ICU or on ventilator, and overall morbidity were not found to be significantly different between positions. Lateral positioning for intramedullary nailing of mid-shaft femur fractures appears to be a safe alternative to the standard supine positioning. There is a lack of both prospective and retrospective comparative studies investigating functional clinical outcomes in the literature.