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A Comparison of Locked Versus Nonlocked Enders Rods for Length Unstable Pediatric Femoral Shaft Fractures

Ellis, Henry Bone MD*; Ho, Christine A. MD; Podeszwa, David A. MD; Wilson, Philip L. MD

Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics: December 2011 - Volume 31 - Issue 8 - p 825–833
doi: 10.1097/BPO.0b013e31822ed34d

Background: Stainless steel flexible Enders rods have been used for intramedullary fixation of pediatric femur fractures with good success. Despite intraoperative anatomic alignment, length unstable femur fractures can present postoperatively with fracture shortening. The purpose of this study was to review all length unstable pediatric femoral shaft fractures in which Enders rods were used and compare those that were locked to those that were not locked.

Methods: A retrospective clinical and radiographic review of all patients at a single institution undergoing flexible intramedullary fixation for length unstable femoral shaft fractures from 2001 to 2008. A length unstable fracture was defined as either a comminuted fracture or a spiral fracture longer than twice the diameter of the femoral shaft. A total of 107 length unstable femoral shaft fractures fixed with Enders rods were identified, of which 37 cases (35%) had both Enders rods “locked” through the eyelet in the distal femur with a 2.7 mm fully threaded cortical screw. Patient demographics, clinical course, complications, fracture characteristics, and radiographic outcomes were compared for the locked and nonlocked groups.

Results: There were no statistical differences between the groups in demographic data, operative variables, fracture pattern, fracture location, time to union, femoral alignment, or major complications. Shortening of the femur and nail migration measured at 1 to 6 weeks postoperatively was significantly greater for the nonlocked cases. The medial and lateral locked Enders rods moved 1.3 and 1.9 mm, respectively, and the unlocked Enders each moved 12.1 mm (P<0.05). At final follow-up there were significantly more (P<0.05) clinical complaints in nonlocked group, including limp, clinical shortening, and painful palpable rods.

Conclusions: Locking Enders rods for length unstable pediatric fractures is an excellent option to prevent shortening and resulted in no additional complications, added surgical time, or increased blood loss.

Level of Evidence: Level III.

*The Steadman Clinic, Steadman Philippon Sports Medicine Fellowship, Vail, CO

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern, Children’s Medical Center Dallas, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, Dallas, TX

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Christine A. Ho, MD, Children’s Medical Center, Orthopaedics Administration E2300, 1935 Medical District Drive, Dallas, TX 75235. E-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.