JOURNAL ARTICLE

Ilizarov frame fixation without bone graft for atrophic humeral shaft nonunion: 28 patients with a minimum 2-year follow-up

Slavko Tomić, Marko Bumbasirević, Aleksandar Lesić, Milorad Mitković, Henry Dushan E Atkinson
Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma 2007, 21 (8): 549-56
17805022

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the outcomes of patients with atrophic humeral shaft nonunion (HSNU) treated by Ilizarov frame fixation without the use of bone graft.

DESIGN: A retrospective review of 28 consecutive patients treated in 1 center between 1996 and 2002.

SETTING: Tertiary referral center.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: We studied 28 consecutive patients: 12 male and 16 female. Of the patients, 21 had been previously operated (15 by internal fixation using compression plates, 3 by intramedullary nailing, and 3 by external fixation), and 9 of those 21 patients also had failed revision procedures; 7 patients had been treated nonoperatively from the time of injury to the time of the index procedure for HSNU. Mean age at the time of the index operation was 44 years (16-73 years).

INTERVENTION: Removal of the previous fixation device, excision of fibrous tissue at the HSNU site, opening of the intramedullary canal, excision of avascular bony ends, and stabilization fixation and compression of the humerus with an Ilizarov circular frame (proximal semicircular ring) using smooth 1.8-mm K-wires. No bone graft was used. The mean postoperative follow-up was 76 months (24-174 months).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: Radiologic union using plain radiographs. Clinical and functional outcome using the Lammens system, which evaluates pain, range of shoulder and elbow movements (and their limitations), and humeral alignment and union. Patient subjective outcomes were assessed using a 4-point patient satisfaction questionnaire.

RESULTS: Bony union was achieved in all 28 cases after a mean of 4.1 months (3.4-5.7 months). There were 6 superficial pin tract infections (which resolved with antibiotics) and 1 transient radial nerve palsy (which resolved at 2.5 months). One patient refractured his humeral shaft following a fall, but the fracture successfully united 5.7 months later after a further Ilizarov frame application. All patients had good or excellent functional outcomes and range of shoulder and elbow movements as rated by the Lammens scoring system.

CONCLUSIONS: Ilizarov circular frame fixation without bone graft is a reliable method for the treatment of atrophic nonunion of the humerus, even after failed previous surgery.

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