The Retrograde Tibial Nail: presentation and biomechanical evaluation of a new concept in the treatment of distal tibia fractures

Sebastian Kuhn, Philipp Appelmann, Philip Pairon, Dorothea Mehler, Pol M Rommens
Injury 2014, 45 Suppl 1: S81-6
Displaced distal tibia fractures require stable fixation while minimizing secondary damage to the soft tissues by the surgical approach and implants. Antegrade intramedullary nailing has become an alternative to plate osteosynthesis for the treatment of distal metaphyseal fractures over the past two decades. While retrograde intramedullary nailing is a standard procedure in other long bone fractures, only few attempts have been made on retrograde nailing of tibial fractures. The main reasons are difficulties of finding an ideal entry portal and the lack of an ideal implant for retrograde insertion. The Retrograde Tibial Nail (RTN) is a prototype intramedullary implant developed by our group. The implant offers double proximal and triple distal interlocking with an end cap leading to an angle-stable screw-nail construct of the most distal interlocking screw. Its design meets the requirements of a minimally invasive surgical approach, with a stable fracture fixation by multiple locking options. The 8mm diameter curved nail, with a length of 120 mm, is introduced through an entry portal at the medial malleolus. We see possible indications for the RTN in far distal tibial shaft fractures, distal extraarticular metaphyseal tibial fractures and in distal tibia fractures with simple extension into the ankle joint when the nail is combined lag screw fixation. A biomechanical comparison of the current RTN prototype against antegrade nailing (Expert Tibial Nail, Synthes(®), ETN) was performed. Both implants were fixed with double proximal and triple distal interlocking. Seven biomechanical composite tibiae were treated with either osteosynthesis techniques. A 10mm defect osteotomy 40 mm proximal to the joint line served as an AO 43-A3 type distal tibial fracture model. The stiffness of the implant-bone constructs was measured under low and high extra-axial compression (350 and 600 N) and under torsional load (8 Nm). Results show a comparable stability during axial loading for the two implant types with slightly higher stability in the RTN group. Rotational stability was superior for the RTN. Statistical analysis proved a significant difference (p<0.05) between the ETN and RTN for rotational stability. This study suggests that retrograde tibia nailing with the RTN is a promising new concept for the treatment of distal tibia fractures.

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