Objective: Restoration of axis, length, and rotation of the lower leg. Sufficient primary stability of the osteosynthesis for functional aftercare and to maintain joint mobility. Good bony healing in closed and open fractures.
Indications: Closed and open fractures of the tibia and complete lower leg fractures distal to the isthmus (AO 42), extraarticular fractures of the distal tibia (AO 43 A1/A2/A3), segmental fractures of the tibia with a fracture in the distal tibia, and certain intraarticular fractures of the distal tibia without impression of the joint line with the use of additional implants (AO 43 C1)
Contraindications: Patient in reduced general condition (e.g., bed ridden), flexion of the knee of less than 90°, patients with knee arthroplasty of the affected leg, infection in the area of the nail's insertion, infection of the tibial cavity, complex articular fractures of the proximal or distal tibia with joint depression.
Surgical technique: Closed reduction of the fracture preferably on a fracture table or using a distractor or an external fixation frame. If necessary, use pointed reduction clamps or sterile drapery. In some cases, additional implants like percutaneous small fragment screws, poller screws or k-wires are helpful. Open reduction is rarely necessary and must be avoided. Opening of the proximal tibia in line with the medullary canal. Canulated insertion of the Expert(TM) tibia nail (ETN; Synthes GmbH, Oberdorf, Switzerland) with reaming of the medullary canal. Control of axis, length, and rotation. Distal interlocking with the radiolucent drill and proximal interlocking with the targeting device.
Postoperative management: Immediate mobilization of ankle and knee joint. Mobilization with 20 kg weight-bearing with crutches. X-ray control 6 weeks postoperatively and increased weight-bearing depending on the fracture status. In cases with simple fractures, good bony contact, or transverse fracture pattern, full weight-bearing at the end of week 6 is targeted.
Results: Between July 2004 and May 2005, 180 patients were included in a multicenter study. The follow-up rate was 81% after 1 year. Of these, 91 fractures (50.6%) were located in the distal third of the tibia. In this segment, the rate of delayed union was 10.6%. Malalignment of > 5° was observed in 5.4%. A secondary malalignment after initial good reduction was detected in only 1.1% of all cases. The implant-specific risk for screw breakage was 3.2%. One patient sustained a deep infection. If additional fibula plating was performed an 8-fold higher risk for delayed bone healing was observed (95%CI: 2.9-21.2, p< 0.001). If the fracture of the fibula was at the same height as on the tibia, the risk for delayed healing was even 14-fold (95% CI: 3.4-62.5, p< 0.001). Biomechanically plating of the fibula does not increase stability in suprasyndesmal distal tibia-fibular fractures treated with an intramedullary nail. Using the ETN with its optimized locking options, fibula plating is not recommended, thus, avoiding soft tissue problems and potentially delayed bone healing.