Objective: Many surgeons currently use long cephomedullary nails for the treatment of intertrochanteric fractures. The optimal indications for deploying distal interlocks are still debatable. This study examined the torsional biomechanical properties of 3-part intertrochanteric femur fractures in a cadaveric bone model using two different distal fixation strategies, an unlocked long cephalomedullary nail versus a dynamically locked nail. Our hypothesis is that a long cephalomedullary nail does not require distal locking fixation when used for treatment of a 3-part intertrochanteric fracture.
Methods: Five matched pairs of cadaveric femora were randomly assigned to one of two distal fixation treatment groups; a single distal interlock screw placed in the dynamic orientation or no distal fixation. A 3-part intertrochanteric fracture was produced. Specimens were potted and mounted in a double gimbal fixture facilitating unconstrained motion in the sagittal and coronal planes. Specimens were cyclically loaded dynamically in both internal and external rotation. Range of motion, internal and external rotation stiffness, torsion stiffness, torsion yield and ultimate torsion magnitude were calculated.
Results: The samples instrumented with a distal locking screw reported statistically greater external rotational stiffness than the unlocked samples in nondestructive testing. The results of the destructive data demonstrated no statistical difference between the locked and unlocked group with regard to yield torque (p = 0.282), peak torque (p = 0.340), stiffness (p = 0.220), displacement at yield torque (p = 0.0605), and displacement at peak torque (p = 0.280).
Conclusion: Distal locking of a long cephalomedullary nail increases the stiffness of the nail-femur construct in a 3-part biomechanical fracture model. However, our testing illustrates that an unlocked construct will tolerate at least equal stress before catastrophic failure in a torsional loading model.
Keywords: Cephalomedullary nails; Distal interlocks; Hip fractures; Intertrochanteric fractures.