Elastic Nailing for Pediatric Subtrochanteric and Supracondylar Femur Fractures
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Subtrochanteric and supracondylar femur fractures are difficult injuries to treat in children. Although elastic stable intramedullary nails are commonly used for pediatric femur shaft fractures, there is little information on their effectiveness for managing pediatric subtrochanteric and supracondylar femur fractures.
We (1) evaluated radiographic union rates and fracture alignment after elastic nailing of pediatric subtrochanteric and supracondylar femur fractures, (2) identified complications, and (3) determined risk factors for complications.
Between 2005 and 2011, 36 subtrochanteric fractures and eight supracondylar femur fractures were treated with elastic stable intramedullary nails and had complete followup until clinical and radiographic union. Elastic nailing was used for subtrochanteric fractures in children 5 to 12 years of age or after failed spica cast treatment in younger children and for displaced supracondylar fractures in children older than 5 years. Fracture alignment and union were measured on radiographs, and complications were identified from review of patient charts. Patients with and without complications were compared using nonparametric tests to identify risk factors.
All fractures healed; 23 of 33 (70%) subtrochanteric femur fractures and five of seven (71%) supracondylar femur fractures healed with anterior angulation of about 5°. For subtrochanteric fractures, complications included repositioning/removal of nails before radiographic union (n = 4), malunion (n = 2), fracture (n = 1), irritation (n = 1) at nail insertion site, and limb length discrepancy (n = 1); despite these complications, there were 22 (61%) excellent, 12 (33%) satisfactory, and only two (6%) poor outcomes. For supracondylar fractures, complications included infection after nail removal (n = 1) and nail site irritation (n = 2); there were three (38%) excellent, five (62%) satisfactory, and no poor outcomes. Complications were more likely after subtrochanteric fracture during motor vehicle accident (p = 0.045).
Although complication rates are high with elastic nailing for pediatric subtrochanteric (22%) and supracondylar (38%) femur fractures, elastic nailing represents an important option for difficult-to-manage femur fractures.
Level of Evidence
Level IV, therapeutic study. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.