Open distal tibial shaft fractures: a retrospective comparison of medial plate versus nail fixation

Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg. 2016 Feb;42(1):101-6. doi: 10.1007/s00068-015-0519-7. Epub 2015 Mar 25.


Purpose: Studies comparing open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) vs. intramedullary nailing (IMN) for distal tibia shaft fractures focus upon closed injuries containing small patient series with open fractures. As such, complication rates for open fractures are unknown. To characterize complications associated with ORIF vs. IMN, we compared complications based on surgical approach in a large patient series of open distal tibia shaft fractures.

Methods: Through retrospective analysis at an urban level I trauma center, 180 IMN and 36 ORIF patients with open distal tibia fractures from 2002 to 2012 were evaluated. Patient charts were reviewed to identify patient demographics, fracture grade (G), patient comorbidities, and postoperative complications including nonunion, malunion, infection, hardware-related pain, and wound dehiscence. Fisher's exact tests compared complications between ORIF and IMN groups. Multivariate regression identified risk factors with statistical significance for the development of a postoperative complication.

Results: One hundred and eighty IMN (G1 22, G2 79, and G3 79) and 36 ORIF (G1 10, G2 16, and G3 10) patients were included for analysis. ORIF patients had a higher rate of nonunion (25.0 %, n = 9) compared with IMN patients (10.6 %, n = 20, p = 0.03). No additional complication had a significant statistical difference between groups. Multivariable analysis shows only surgical method influenced the development of complications: ORIF patients had 2.52 greater odds of developing complications compared with IMN patients (95 % CI 1.05-6.02; p = 0.04).

Conclusions: ORIF leads to higher rates of nonunion and significantly increases the odds of developing a complication compared with IMN for open distal tibia fractures. This is the first study investigating complication rates based on surgical approach in a large cohort of patients with exclusively open distal tibia fractures.

Keywords: IMN; Open fracture; Plate; Tibia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone Nails*
  • Bone Plates*
  • Female
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / instrumentation
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods
  • Fracture Fixation, Intramedullary / instrumentation
  • Fracture Fixation, Intramedullary / methods*
  • Fractures, Malunited / epidemiology
  • Fractures, Open / surgery*
  • Fractures, Ununited / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Wound Dehiscence / epidemiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology
  • Tibial Fractures / surgery*
  • Young Adult