Elastic stable intramedullary nails (ESIN) are commonly utilized to treat unstable pediatric tibia fractures but have been associated with complications. The purpose of this study was to identify risk factors for adverse radiographic outcomes after ESIN of pediatric tibia fractures.
A retrospective review of all patients who underwent diaphyseal tibia fracture stabilization with ESIN between 2010 and 2018 at 3 pediatric level 1 trauma centers was performed. Inclusion criteria were open growth plates, no intra-articular or physeal fracture involvement, and radiographic follow-up until union. Patient demographics, injury mechanism, fracture characteristics, and implant fill relative to the medullary canal were recorded. Radiographic outcome measures included achievement of and time to union, residual angular deformity, and additional procedures.
One hundred seventy-two patients met inclusion criteria and were followed for a mean of 1.2 years. Nonunions were observed in 3% of the patient cohort. Another 10% required >6 months to heal, but did not require further surgical intervention. Angular deformities were common with 57% having a residual deformity ≥5 degrees and 14% having a residual deformity ≥10 degrees. Of the patients with a residual deformity between 5 and 10 degrees, 3% were symptomatic, where as 26% of the patients with a residual deformity ≥10 degrees were symptomatic. Greater angular deformities were associated with open fractures, compartment syndrome, and longer time to union. Patient age, weight, tibial comminution, and canal fill were not associated with nonunions or malunions.
ESIN of pediatric tibia fractures results in reliable healing for a majority of patients, but poses risks for residual angular deformities and delayed healing. Open fractures and compartment syndrome were associated with adverse radiographic outcomes.