To report the results of intramedullary nailing of proximal quarter tibial fractures with special emphasis on techniques of reduction.
Retrospective clinical study.
Level 1 trauma center.
During a 36-month period, 456 patients with fractures of the tibial shaft (OTA type 42) or proximal tibial metaphysis (OTA type 41A2, 41A3, and 41C2) were treated operatively at a level 1 trauma center. Thirty-five patients with 37 fractures were treated primarily with intramedullary nailing of their proximal quarter tibial fractures and formed the study group. Thirteen fractures (35.1%) were open and 22 fractures (59.5%) had segmental comminution. Three fractures had proximal intraarticular extensions.
Main Outcome Measurements:
Alignment and reduction postoperatively and at healing. An angular malreduction was defined as greater than 5 degrees in any plane.
Fractures extended proximally to an average of 17% of the tibial length (range, 4% to 25%). The average distance from the proximal articular surface to the fracture was 67.8 mm (range, 17 mm to 102 mm, not corrected for distance magnification, included for preoperative planning purposes only). Postoperative angulation was satisfactory (average coronal and sagittal plane deformity of less than 1 degree) as was the final angulation. Acceptable alignment was obtained in 34 of 37 fractures (91.9%). Two patients had 5-degree coronal plane deformities (one varus and one valgus), and 1 patient had a 7-degree varus deformity.
Two patients with open fractures with associated bone loss underwent a planned, staged iliac crest autograft procedure postoperatively. Four patients were lost to follow-up. In the remaining 31 patients with 33 fractures, the proximal tibial fractures united without additional procedures. No patient had any change in alignment at final radiographic evaluation. Secondary procedures to obtain union at the distal fracture in segmental injuries included dynamizations (n = 3) and exchange nailing (n = 1). Complications included deep infections in 2 patients that were successfully treated.
Multiple techniques were required to obtain and maintain reduction prior to nailing and included attention to the proper starting point, the use of unicortical plates, and the use of a femoral distractor applied to the tibia. Simple articular fractures and extensions were not a contraindication to intramedullary fixation. The proximal tibial fracture healed despite open manipulations. Short plate fixations to maintain this difficult reduction, either temporary or permanent, were effective.