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A Quartet of Elastic Stable Intramedullary Nails for More Challenging Pediatric Femur Fractures

Busch, Michael T., MD*; Perkins, Crystal A., MD*; Nickel, Brian T., MD; Blizzard, Daniel J., MD; Willimon, Samuel Clifton, MD*

Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics: January 2019 - Volume 39 - Issue 1 - p e12–e17
doi: 10.1097/BPO.0000000000001273
Trauma Lower Extremity

Introduction: The insertion of 2 elastic stable intramedullary nails (ESINs) is a common treatment for pediatric femur fractures. However, the use of this technique in length-unstable or metadiaphyseal fractures has historically been associated with higher complication rates. To improve stability, the addition of a third ESIN has been assessed biomechanically and clinically, but the addition of a fourth nail has only been evaluated biomechanically. The purpose of this study is to report our surgical technique and radiographic outcomes using a quartet of ESINs in pediatric femur fractures.

Methods: A retrospective review was performed of pediatric patients with length-unstable or metadiaphyseal femur fractures who were treated with 4 ESINs by a single surgeon from 2008 to 2013. Nails were inserted in a retrograde manner, 2 each from medial and lateral starting points. Patients were followed clinically and radiographically until the union and routine removal of hardware. Primary outcomes included fracture union, sagittal, and coronal plane alignment, and complications.

Results: Fourteen patients underwent quartet ESIN placement. Two patients were excluded: one for early loss to follow-up and another with a diagnosis of osteogenesis imperfecta. The average patient age was 9.3 years (range, 4 to 14 y) and weight was 47 kg (range, 21 to 95 kg). All fractures achieved radiographic union at mean 5.5 months (range, 2 to 9 mo). Hardware was removed at a mean of 9.4 months (range, 2 to 22 mo) following implantation. At final mean follow-up of 18 months, patients and families reported no functional limitations. There were no hardware failures or revision surgeries. There were no limb length discrepancies or malalignment at the time of final radiographic follow-up. There were 2 minor complications—1 patient with pain secondary to nail migration resulting in prominence at the knee and another with refracture following a fall. The stable refracture occurred before complete fracture union and hardware removal and went on to the union without the need for any additional treatment.

Conclusions: Treatment with a quartet of ESINs should be considered for skeletally immature children with length-unstable or metadiaphyseal femur fractures. In this series, all fractures achieved union without major complications or hardware failure. This modification to traditional elastic nailing techniques is an option for the surgeon to consider as an alternative to rigid intramedullary nailing, submuscular plating, or external fixation.

Level of Evidence: Level IV.

*Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Emory University, Atlanta, GA

University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, Madison, WI

No financial support was provided for this study or manuscript.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Crystal A. Perkins, MD, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, 5445 Meridian Mark Road, Suite 250, Atlanta, GA 30342. E-mail:

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