Intramedullary nailing of clavicular midshaft fractures with the titanium elastic nail: problems and complications

Arno Frigg, Paavo Rillmann, Thomas Perren, Martin Gerber, Christian Ryf
American Journal of Sports Medicine 2009, 37 (2): 352-9

BACKGROUND: Intramedullary nailing of clavicular midshaft fractures using the titanium elastic nail has been described as a technically easy, minimally invasive operation with few complications and an early return to competitive sports.

HYPOTHESIS: The results reported thus far have been positive. The titanium elastic nail is associated with multiple intraoperative and postoperative problems.

STUDY DESIGN: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

METHODS: From April 2004 to March 2007, 34 patients at our institution were treated with intramedullary nailing. A standard titanium elastic nail was used in 19 cases and a titanium elastic nail with an end cap in 15 cases. The titanium elastic nail was inserted and advanced under fluoroscopic control. A short incision at the fracture site was made for open reduction if needed. Postoperatively, free range of motion was allowed.

RESULTS: In 62% of patients, open reduction was necessary independent of fracture type, flattening of the titanium elastic nail, or transverse fragments. Operating time was 44 minutes (range, 10-105 minutes) and fluoroscopy time 9 minutes (range, 2-25 minutes). In 70% of patients, problems or complications occurred (7 medial perforations, 7 lateral penetrations, 1 titanium elastic nail breakage, 1 titanium elastic nail dislocation, 7 hardware irritations). The reoperation rate was 36%. Medial migration and pain were significantly reduced by using an end cap.

CONCLUSION: Intramedullary nailing of clavicular midshaft fractures using the titanium elastic nail is a technically demanding operation with various complications in the postoperative phase. This study might explain why the implant has not yet achieved widespread application, despite the fact that other authors have reported good results. Amending the operative technique and postoperative treatment might improve the outcome in the future.

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