"Unstable" Pediatric Femoral Shaft Fractures Treated With Flexible Elastic Nails Have Few Complications

J Orthop Trauma. 2021 Feb 1;35(2):e56-e60. doi: 10.1097/BOT.0000000000001886.


Objectives: To determine our complication rate in pediatric femoral shaft fractures treated with flexible elastic nailing and to determine fracture characteristics that may predict complications.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting: One Level 1 and One Level 2 academic trauma centers.

Patients/participants: One hundred one pediatric femoral shaft fractures treated from 2006 to 2018.

Main outcome measurement: Major and minor complications.

Results: One hundred one femurs met inclusion criteria. The average age was 7 years (range 3-12 years). The average weight was 29.0 kg (range 16-55 kg). The average follow-up was 11 months (6-36 months). Ninety-three patients underwent elective implant removal at our institution. Fifty-one of the 101 (50%) fractures were "unstable" patterns. Ninety-three percent had implants that filled >80% of the canal (69 titanium and 32 stainless steel). Seventeen percent (18) had cast immobilization. All fractures went on to union. No patient required revision surgery for malunion as follows: 6 had coronal/sagittal malalignment >10 degrees, 3 had malrotation >15 degrees, and none had a leg length inequality >1 cm. Three patients had an unplanned surgery as follows: 2 for prominent implants and 1 for refracture after a second injury. There were no patient, fracture, or treatment characteristics that were predictive of complications or unplanned surgery, including "unstable" fractures (P = 0.78).

Conclusion: Our study demonstrates that flexible elastic nailing can be safely used in most pediatric femoral shaft fractures, including those previously described as "unstable."

Level of evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Nails
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Femoral Fractures* / diagnostic imaging
  • Femoral Fractures* / surgery
  • Fracture Fixation, Intramedullary* / adverse effects
  • Fracture Healing
  • Humans
  • Nails
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome