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Comparison of intramedullary nailing to plating for both-bone forearm fractures in older children.

BACKGROUND: When operative stabilization of forearm fractures in older children is necessary, the optimal method of fixation is controversial. This study compared the radiographic and functional outcomes of intramedullary nailing to plating of forearm fractures in children between 10 and 16 years of age.

METHODS: Thirty-one patients who underwent operative fixation of midshaft radius and ulna fractures were divided into nailing and plating groups and were compared retrospectively according to perioperative data and patient outcome measures (fracture union at 3 and 6 months, loss of forearm rotation, restoration of radial bow magnitude and location, and complication rates).

RESULTS: The nailing group had 19 patients, with a mean age of 12.5 years (range, 10-14.6 years), and the plating group had 12, with a mean age of 14.5 years (range, 11.9-16 years). Groups were similar for sex, arm injured, fracture location, Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur Osteosynthesefragen/Orthopaedic Trauma Association classification, and number of open fractures. Duration of surgery and tourniquet use were significantly shorter in the nailing group (P = 0.037 and 0.001, respectively). No differences were found between the groups for fracture union at 3 or 6 months. At latest follow-up, radial bow magnitude was similar for the 2 groups and restored to normal in both. Radial bow location in the nailing group was significantly different from the reported normal values (P = 0.001). Despite this, there was no difference in loss of forearm rotation between groups. Complication rates were also similar between groups, with 1 ulna nonunion, 1 compartment syndrome, and 2 refractures in the nailing group and 1 radius and ulna nonunion, 1 broken plate, and 2 refractures in the plating group.

CONCLUSIONS AND SIGNIFICANCE: Based on similar functional and radiographic outcomes, nailing of length-stable forearm fractures remains an equally effective method of fixation in skeletally immature patients 10 to 16 years of age when compared with plating and is our treatment of choice.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic level III--retrospective comparative study.

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