Factors predicting failure of internal fixations of fractures of the lower limbs: a prospective cohort study

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2021 Sep 16;22(1):798. doi: 10.1186/s12891-021-04688-6.


Background: We assessed predictive factors of patients with fractures of the lower extremities caused by trauma. We examined which factors are associated with an increased risk of failure. Furthermore, the predictive factors were set into context with other long-term outcomes, concrete pain and physical functioning.

Methods: We performed a prospective cohort study at a single level I trauma center. We enrolled patients with traumatic fractures of the lower extremities treated with internal fixation from April 2017 to July 2018. We evaluated the following predictive factors: age, gender, diabetes, smoking status, obesity, open fractures and peripheral arterial diseases. The primary outcome was time to failure (nonunion, implant failure or reposition). Secondary outcomes were pain and physical functioning measured 6 months after initial surgery. For the analysis of the primary outcome, we used a stratified (according fracture location) Cox proportional hazard regression model.

Results: We included 204 patients. Overall, we observed failure in 33 patients (16.2 %). Most of the failures occurred within the first 3 months. Obesity and open fractures were associated with an increased risk of failure and decreased physical functioning. None of the predictors showed an association with pain. Age, female gender and smoking of more than ≥ 10 package years increased failure risk numerically but statistical uncertainty was high.

Conclusions: We found that obesity and open fractures were strongly associated with an increased risk of failure. These predictors seem promising candidates to be included in a risk prediction model and can be considered as a good start for clinical decision making across different types of fractures at the lower limbs. However, large heterogeneity regarding the other analyzed predictors suggests that "simple" models might not be adequate for a precise personalized risk estimation and that computer-based models incorporating a variety of detailed information (e.g. pattern of injury, x-ray and clinical data) and their interrelation may be required to significantly increase prediction precision.

Trial registration: NCT03091114 .

Keywords: Failure; Fractures; Lower extremities; Osteosynthesis; Prediction factors.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal* / adverse effects
  • Fractures, Open*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / surgery
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03091114