Systematic review: functional outcomes and complications of intramedullary nailing versus plate fixation for both-bone diaphyseal forearm fractures in children

Injury. 2014 Aug;45(8):1135-43. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2014.04.020. Epub 2014 May 2.


Background: Both-bone diaphyseal forearm fractures constitute up to 5.4% of all fractures in children in the United Kingdom. Most can be managed with closed reduction and cast immobilisation. Surgical fixation options include flexible intramedullary nailing and plating. However, the optimal method is controversial. The main purpose of this study was to systematically search for and critically appraise articles comparing functional outcomes, radiographic outcomes and complications of nailing and plating for both-bone diaphyseal forearm fractures in children under 18 years.

Methods: A comprehensive search of Medline, Embase and Cochrane databases using specific search terms and limits was conducted. Articles identified were thoroughly screened using strict eligibility criteria and eight retrospective non-randomised comparative studies were identified and reviewed.

Results: There were no statistically significant differences in functional outcome or time to fracture union between plating and IM nailing. No consistent difference was found in complication rate, fracture angulation, shortening or rotation. Better cosmesis and shorter duration of surgery was noted in the IM nailing group. Post-operative radial bow was significantly abnormal in the IM nailing groups, but did not affect forearm movement.

Conclusion: Based on similar functional and radiographic outcomes, nailing seems to be a safe and effective option when compared to plating for paediatric forearm fractures. However, critical appraisal of the studies in this review identified some methodological deficiencies and further prospective, randomised trials are recommended.

Keywords: Fracture; Intramedullary nail; Paediatrics; Plating.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Plates*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Forearm Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Forearm Injuries / pathology
  • Forearm Injuries / surgery*
  • Fracture Fixation, Intramedullary*
  • Fracture Healing
  • Humans
  • Immobilization / methods
  • Radiography
  • Radius Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Radius Fractures / pathology
  • Radius Fractures / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ulna Fractures / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ulna Fractures / pathology
  • Ulna Fractures / surgery*
  • United Kingdom