Retrograde intramedullary nailing of femoral diaphyseal fractures

R F Ostrum, J DiCicco, R Lakatos, A Poka
Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma 1998, 12 (7): 464-8

OBJECTIVES: To prospectively evaluate the results of retrograde intramedullary nailing of femoral shaft fractures.

DESIGN: Prospective, consecutive series.

PATIENTS AND SETTING: All patients with a femoral shaft fracture admitted at an urban Level 1 trauma center from December 1995 to December 1996 were treated with a retrograde femoral intramedullary nail.

INTERVENTION: Retrograde femoral intramedullary nailing was performed on a radiolucent operating room table. Through a three-centimeter medial parapatellar incision, a reamed ten-millimeter retrograde nail was inserted.

METHODS: From the time of injury until union, the following parameters were assessed: operative time, blood loss, extent of comminution, open grade, associated injuries, Injury Severity Score, body mass index, time to union, secondary procedures, range of motion in the knee. and complications.

RESULTS: Fifty-seven patients with sixty-one fractures were available for follow-up, which averaged 43.1 weeks. Fifty-two percent of fractures demonstrated Winquist Type 3 or 4 comminution. Twenty-six percent of the fractures were open. Fifty-two fractures healed after the initial nailing, five of seven dynamized nails healed, and one patient with bone loss requiring bone graft united yielding a final union rate of 95 percent. Of the three nonunions (5 percent), two healed with exchange nailing and one remains asymptomatic at seventy-one weeks. One patient developed a late septic knee that resolved with treatment. Excellent range of motion in the knee was obtained by those patients who did not have other ipsilateral limb injuries.

CONCLUSIONS: This consecutive series had a 95 percent union rate after nailing and dynamization as necessary. No knee problems were associated with the retrograde femoral intramedullary nailing technique. The one septic knee raises concerns about the use of retrograde nailing in severe open femoral shaft fractures. Retrograde femoral nailing should be given serious consideration as an alternative to antegrade femoral nailing.

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