Locking plates for distal femur fractures: is there a problem with fracture healing?

J Orthop Trauma. 2011 Feb;25 Suppl 1:S8-14. doi: 10.1097/BOT.0b013e3182070127.


Objectives: Fractures of the distal femur are severe injuries that present many clinical challenges. Nonunion, delayed union, implant failure, and the need for secondary procedures can reflect complications of healing. This article reviews the literature on distal femur fractures treated with locking plates to determine the reported rate of healing difficulties.

Data sources: The PubMed database and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association and American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons abstract archives were searched for studies including the key words distal femur fracture, supracondylar femur fracture, or locking plate from the year 2000 to the present.

Study selection: Reports were included when distal femur fractures were treated with locking plates and when the number of healed fractures was identified in the study. The reported healing rates and the rate of healing complications were determined from the studies. The time to implant failure was recorded. Those articles that included periprosthetic fractures were separated from those only including acute distal femur fractures.

Data synthesis: Fifteen full-length publications and three abstracts were included. The rate of complications related to healing ranged from 0% to 32% in these studies. Implant failures occurred late with 75% of the failures occurring after 3 months and 50% occurring after 6 months.

Conclusions: Complications of healing including nonunion, delayed union, and implant failure are not infrequent and represent ongoing problems with distal femur fracture treatment. Further clinical research combined with innovation in surgical techniques and implant design will be necessary to improve the results of the last decade.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Plates*
  • Bone Screws*
  • Femoral Fractures / surgery*
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / instrumentation*
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods
  • Fracture Healing*
  • Humans