Ilizarov treatment of tibial nonunions with bone loss

D Paley, M A Catagni, F Argnani, A Villa, G B Benedetti, R Cattaneo
Clinical Orthopaedics and related Research 1989, (241): 146-65
Twenty-five patients aged 19-62 years were treated for tibial nonunions (22 atrophic, three hypertrophic) with bone loss (1-23 cm, mean 6.2 cm) by the Ilizarov technique and fixator. Thirteen had chronic osteomyelitis, 19 had a limb-length discrepancy (2-11 cm), 12 had a bony defect (1-16 cm), and 13 had a deformity. Six had a bone defect with no shortening, 13 had shortening with no defect, and six had both a bone defect and shortening. Nonunion, bone defects, limb shortening, and deformity can all be addressed simultaneously with the Ilizarov apparatus. Bone defects were closed from within without bone grafts by the Ilizarov bone transport technique of sliding a bone fragment internally, producing distraction osteogenesis behind it until the defect is bridged (internal lengthening). Length was reestablished by distraction of a percutaneous corticotomy or through compression and subsequent distraction of the pseudarthrosis site (external lengthening). Distraction osteogenesis resulting from both processes obviated the need for a bone graft in every case. Deformity was corrected by means of hinges on the apparatus. Infection was treated by radical resection of the necrotic bone and internal lengthening to regenerate the excised bone. Union was achieved in all cases. The mean time to union was 13.6 months, but it was only 10.6 months if the time taken for unsuccessful compression-distraction of the nonunion is eliminated from the calculation. The bone results were excellent in 18 cases, good in five, and fair in two based on union in all cases, persistent infection in three, deformity in four, and limb shortening in one. The functional results were excellent in 16 cases, good in seven, fair in one, and poor in one based on return to work and daily activities in all cases, limp in four cases, equinus deformity in five cases, dystrophy in four cases, pain in four cases, and voluntary amputation for neurogenic pain in one case.

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