Hexapod external fixator closed distraction in the management of stiff hypertrophic tibial nonunions

Bone Joint J. 2015 Oct;97-B(10):1417-22. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.97B10.35504.


Tibial nonunion represents a spectrum of conditions which are challenging to treat, and optimal management remains unclear despite its high rate of incidence. We present 44 consecutive patients with 46 stiff tibial nonunions, treated with hexapod external fixators and distraction to achieve union and gradual deformity correction. There were 31 men and 13 women with a mean age of 35 years (18 to 68) and a mean follow-up of 12 months (6 to 40). No tibial osteotomies or bone graft procedures were performed. Bony union was achieved after the initial surgery in 41 (89.1%) tibias. Four persistent nonunions united after repeat treatment with closed hexapod distraction, resulting in bony union in 45 (97.8%) patients. The mean time to union was 23 weeks (11 to 49). Leg-length was restored to within 1 cm of the contralateral side in all tibias. Mechanical alignment was restored to within 5° of normal in 42 (91.3%) tibias. Closed distraction of stiff tibial nonunions can predictably lead to union without further surgery or bone graft. In addition to generating the required distraction to achieve union, hexapod circular external fixators can accurately correct concurrent deformities and limb-length discrepancies.

Keywords: Circular external fixator; Distraction osteogenesis; Nonunion; Taylor Spatial Frame; TrueLok-Hex.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • External Fixators*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Ununited / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteogenesis, Distraction / instrumentation
  • Osteogenesis, Distraction / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Tibial Fractures / surgery*
  • Time Factors