In the distal femur, locked plating is efficacious when coronal fractures preclude the use of a conventional fixed-angle device. However, minimal comparative data exist for supracondylar fracture patterns, which could be treated with other devices. The purpose of this study was to compare the 95-degree angled blade plate (ABP) versus the Locking Condylar Plate (LCP) by assessing complications and secondary procedures in fractures amenable to treatment with either implant.
Level 1 trauma center.
Seventy patients with 71 distal femoral fractures (OTA 33-A, 33-C1, 33-C2) amenable to either ABP or LCP with a mean age of 59.5 years (range, 20–92 years) were included. Seventeen fractures (24%) occurred adjacent to a previous knee arthroplasty (10 ABP and 7 LCP). The 2 groups were similar with respect to age, fracture pattern, and the presence of open fracture. Most injuries were the result of high-energy trauma, and 21% were open fractures.
Thirty-two fractures (45%) were treated with an ABP, and 39 (55%) were treated with the LCP.
Main Outcome Measures:
Complications, including infection, nonunion, and malunion, and secondary operations were determined.
After a mean of 26-month follow-up, 4 patients (6.0%) were treated for infections. Malunions occurred in 11% of LCP patients and in 1 ABP patient (3.4%, P = 0.14). All patients with malunions were older than 55 years. Seven patients (11%) were treated for nonunions. Six of the nonunions occurred after LCP (16% vs. 3.4%, P = 0.11) Complications were more frequent in LCP patients (35%) versus ABP patients (10%, P = 0.001). Complications were not related to fracture pattern, periprosthetic fracture, or open fracture. Mean age of patients with complications was 64 years (vs. 53 years, P = 0.01), and they were more likely to have lower energy mechanisms (P = 0.017). Overall, 18 patients (27%) underwent secondary procedures, including treatment of infection, nonunion, malunion, or prominent implant removal. Secondary procedures were more common after LCP (43%) versus ABP (6.9%, P = 0.0008) patients. Painful prominent implants were removed from 7 LCP patients (18%) and no ABP patients (P = 0.01).
Distal femur fractures are often associated with prolonged healing and rehabilitation times, which increase substantially when complications occur. Internal fixation of these fractures may be performed successfully with ABP or LCP. In our review of fractures that could be treated with either implant, patients treated with locking plates had more complications and nonunions, requiring more secondary procedures to treat complications and to remove prominent implants. Furthermore, locking plates are substantially more expensive than conventional fixed-angle devices. Future investigation is needed in the form of a large randomized prospective study to clearly define clinical differences, functional outcomes, and costs of care.
Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.