Prevalence of Rotational Malalignment After Intramedullary Nailing of Tibial Shaft Fractures: Can We Reliably Use the Contralateral Uninjured Side as the Reference Standard?

Megan E. Cain, Laurent A.M. Hendrickx, Nils Jan Bleeker, Kaj T.A. Lambers, Job N. Doornberg, Ruurd L. Jaarsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract


BACKGROUND: Intramedullary (IM) nailing is the treatment of choice for most tibial shaft fractures. However, an iatrogenic pitfall may be rotational malalignment. The aims of this retrospective analysis were to determine (1) the prevalence of rotational malalignment using postoperative computed tomography (CT) as the reference standard; (2) the average baseline tibial torsion of uninjured limbs; and (3) based on that normal torsion, whether the contralateral, uninjured limb can be reliably used as the reference standard. METHODS: The study included 154 patients (71% male and 29% female) with a median age of 37 years. All patients were treated for a unilateral tibial shaft fracture with an IM nail and underwent low-dose bilateral postoperative CT to assess rotational malalignment. RESULTS: More than one-third of the patients (n = 55; 36%) had postoperative rotational malalignment of ≥10°. Right-sided tibial shaft fractures were significantly more likely to display external rotational malalignment whereas left-sided fractures were predisposed to internal rotational malalignment. The uninjured right tibiae were an average of 4° more externally rotated than the left (mean rotation and standard deviation, 41.1° ± 8.0° [right] versus 37.0° ± 8.2° [left]; p < 0.01). Applying this 4° correction to our cohort not only reduced the prevalence of rotational malalignment (n = 45; 29%), it also equalized the distribution of internal and external rotational malalignment between the left and right tibiae. CONCLUSIONS: This study confirms a high prevalence of rotational malalignment following IM nailing of tibial shaft fractures (36%). There was a preexisting 4° left-right difference in tibial torsion, which sheds a different light on previous studies and current clinical practice and could have important implications for the diagnosis and management of tibial rotational malalignment. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)582-591
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of bone and joint surgery. American volume
Volume102
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

Keywords

  • Tibial shaft fractures
  • Intramedullary (IM) nailing
  • prevalence of rotational malalignment
  • postoperative computed tomography (CT)
  • predisposition to rotational malalignment
  • predisposition of rotational malalignment

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