Osteopetrosis is caused by general increase in bone density and obliteration of the medullary canal. Fractures are a frequent complication and their management is considered a challenge due to increased resistance to reaming and screw positioning; reduction maneuvers have to be done more carefully to avoid intraoperative fractures, and there is an increased risk of drill breakage. There is also a higher risk of infection and malunion, which increases the incidence of surgical revisions in this population.
55-year-old male with osteopetrosis and a history of two previous proximal femur fractures, who sustained an oblique supracondylar fracture of the left humerus and a simple, intra-articular, rotated fragment with capitelum involvement, as well as a fracture in the base of the coronoid process was admitted in our hospital. We performed an open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) and 12 months after surgery, the patient’s bone has healed and he recovered flexion (110˚) and extension (−10˚) without complications.
During ORIF, two drill bits were broken and screw fixation was challenging due to the strength required. Bone overheating was also present during drilling, evidenced by smoke production and increased temperature of both bone and drill bits. Recommendations to avoid these problems include continuous cold saline irrigation, frequent drill bit changing, and spaced cycles with low-speed drilling. Additionally, high-resistance and high-speed electric drill bits can also be effective. Finally, patients should be closely followed postoperatively due to the high incidence of refracture, infection and malunion.
Fracture fixation in patients with osteopetrosis requires strategies to overcome the technical difficulties found during the procedure. Preoperative planning must include the availability of multiple metal drill bits, electric drills, and bone substitutes, having in mind drilling techniques, drilling speed, and temperature control. Patients should be closely followed to evidence any complications such as infections and malunions.