Objectives/hypothesis: To evaluate the mechanical effects of medial and lateral blocking screws in supplementing intramedullary nail fixation of high proximal and low distal tibial fractures treated with small-diameter intramedullary nails.
Study design: Intact fresh human cadaveric tibiae were sectioned to provide ten distal segments measuring seventy millimeters and ten proximal segments measuring ninety millimeters. In the distal segments, stainless steel solid eight-millimeter tibial nails were advanced to eight millimeters from the ankle joint. Two transverse and one anterior-posterior (AP) locking screw were inserted using a custom-made jig. The same jig was used for the placement of a medial and a lateral blocking screw (BS) in the AP direction, nine millimeters above the superior most interlocking screw and eight millimeters distal to the lower end of the segment. In the proximal segments, two interlocking screws (both static and dynamic screws) were placed in a medial-lateral direction with the use of the insertion handle. A jig was used for placement of a medial and a lateral BS in the AP direction, nine millimeters below the lower transverse interlocking screw and sixteen millimeters proximal to the lower end of the segment. The bone-implant construct (BIC) was embedded and fixed in a materials testing machine. The BICs were loaded in the medial-lateral direction at a distance of 185 millimeters from the nail ends with loads from -150 newtons to + 150 newtons. Force-displacement curves were recorded before and after insertion of the BSs.
Results: In proximal BICs, the addition of BSs decreased the deformation of the BICs 25 percent, from 8.9 +/- 1.9 degrees [mean +/- standard deviation (SD)] in the control group to 6.8 +/-1.1 degrees in the BS group (mean +/- SD) (p < 0.0001). In distal BICs, the addition of BSs decreased the deformation of the BICs 57 percent, from 9.5 +/- 1.4 degrees (mean +/- SD) in the control group to 4.0 +/- 1.0 degrees in the BS group (mean +/- SD) (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: The study suggests that medial and lateral blocking screws can increase the primary stability of distal and proximal metaphyseal fractures after nailing and can be an effective tool for selected cases that exhibit malalignment and/or instability.