Anterior knee pain following the lateral parapatellar approach for tibial nailing
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Anterior knee pain after intramedullary nailing of tibial shaft fractures is a common clinical problem, with various etiologies. We have used a lateral parapatellar approach with atraumatic elevation of the infrapatellar fat pad to expose the starting point. Our hypothesis was that this approach leads to a low incidence of knee pain.
We conducted a retrospective study of 78 patients suffering from tibia fractures treated by a single surgeon. Fifty patients were available for the study. All fractures were fixed with a reamed intramedullary nail using the modified lateral approach. Complaints of knee pain and range of motion as well as keeling ability were examined in the clinic visit and recorded in the patients’ charts. Lysholm knee scores were collected following the last follow-up visit. Average follow-up was 13 months (range 6–26 months).
Nine patients (19%) had subjective anterior knee pain when directly questioned. Eighty-two percentage of patients had no difficulty kneeling and this was significantly correlated with lack of knee pain. Good or excellent knee scores were reported by 92% of patients. Average knee flexion was 130°. There was a negative correlation between the presence of open fracture and outcome. No correlation was found between knee pain and nail insertion depth or coronal alignment.
The modified lateral parapatellar approach with careful dissection of the fat pad may significantly reduce anterior knee pain after intramedullary nailing of the tibial shaft.