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J Orthop Trauma. 2004 Oct;18(9):603-10.

Nonunions of the distal tibia treated by reamed intramedullary nailing.

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  • 1Orthopaedic Trauma Service, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY 10021, USA.



The purpose of this study is to determine the efficacy of reamed intramedullary nailing in the treatment of nonunions of the distal one-fourth of the tibia. Nonunions of the distal tibia are particularly difficult to treat given the short distal segment, the proximity to the ankle joint, and the fragile soft-tissue envelope. Intramedullary nailing is an attractive solution to this problem because it avoids extensive dissection, and the implant remains intraosseous, posing minimal problem for the soft tissues.


Retrospective review of patient charts and radiographs.


Tertiary care orthopaedic hospital.


Thirty-two patients with nonunions of the distal one-fourth of the tibia. Prior treatments included casting, internal fixation with plates and screws, intramedullary nailing, and external fixation. Seven patients had a history of infection, but no patient had signs of active infection at the time of surgery.


Study patients were treated by reamed, locked intra-medullary nailing.


Main outcome measurements included time to union, correction of deformity, and complications including infection and reoperation.


Average length of follow-up was 25 months (range 4-81 months). Twenty-nine out of 32 patients achieved union at an average of 3.5 months after reamed, locked intramedullary nailing. Of the remaining three, 2 patients united after dynamization (one at 4 months after dynamization and the other at 7 months), and the third patient united 4 months after exchange nailing. Deformity was corrected to a maximum of 4 degrees in all planes. Four patients had positive intraoperative cultures, and only 2 required removal of the nail after achieving union to control infection. There were no signs of chronic osteomyelitis in these 2 patients at the date of the last follow-up visit; 5.5 years and 2 years following nail removal.


Reamed, locked intramedullary nailing is a reliable and safe procedure in the treatment of nonunions in the distal one-fourth of the tibia, even in the setting of prior infection or external fixation. It allows for excellent correction of deformity, which is an essential component of the procedure.

Copyright 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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