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Comparison of Fusion Rates/Complications Between Different Types of Thumb Metacarpophalangeal Fusion Techniques.

BACKGROUND: Thumb metacarpophalangeal (MP) fusion is generally successful; however, complications have been reported to occur in 0% to 30% of cases, whereas nonunion rates vary by method but, overall, are reported to occur in 0% to 15% of cases. Many fixation techniques have been described, but there is no consensus on the optimal fusion technique. Our goal was to compare complication and union rates of different thumb MP arthrodesis techniques.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective review of patients who underwent primary thumb MP fusion between 2000 and 2022. Patients who underwent revision fusion, fusion for infection, or amputation were excluded. Fusions of MP joints of other fingers were also excluded. Data collection consisted of demographic data, complications, time to fusion, rate of delayed union and rate of nonunion. Five different fusion constructs were evaluated during our study period: staples, Kirschner wires (K-wires), cerclage, K-wires with cerclage, and intramedullary screw.

RESULTS: Forty-seven patients underwent fusion with staples, 16 with K-wires, 14 with cerclage, 9 with K-wires and cerclage, and 6 with an intramedullary screw. The individual complication and nonunion rates differed significantly among the groups with the intramedullary screw group having a statistically higher rate of nonunion ( P = .004). Furthermore, smoking, diabetes, and being overweight were associated with nonunions.

CONCLUSION: Union rates were significantly lower in patients treated with an intramedullary screw and those who are smokers, diabetics, and/or overweight. Caution should be exercised when using intramedullary screw fixation for MP fusion, especially in patients with these comorbidities.

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