Background The optimal method of skeletal stabilization is still controversial. Therefore, we examined the clinical outcomes associated with late (L) versus immediate intramedullary nailing (IMN).
Methods This was a retrospective comparative study of trauma registry data from an emergency medical care center (university hospital). We examined 85 open tibial shaft fractures (85 patients) treated with L or immediate (I) IMN from January 2004 to December 2010. The L and I groups comprised 37 (33 men, 4 women) and 48 (44 men, 4 women) patients, respectively. The postoperative infection rate, time to bone union, and delayed union/non-union were evaluated.
Results The mean ages at the time of trauma in the L and I groups were 41.8 (18–79) and 42.0 (18–71) years, respectively; the mean follow-up periods were 15.0 (6–39) and 18.3 (8–36) months, respectively. A higher rate of postoperative infection was found in the L group than in the I group (p=0.004). Superficial/deep infection developed at a higher rate in the L group than in the I group (p=0.042 and 0.045, respectively). Among patients with Gustilo grade IIIA fractures, postoperative infection occurred at a higher rate in the L group than in the I group (p=0.008). However, the delayed union rate, non-union rate, and time to bone union were not significantly different between the groups.
Conclusions Gustilo grade IIIA fractures had a high infection rate, which is likely due to various factors, including pin-site infection after external fixation. We think that I IMN is safer than L IMN, and it should be the treatment of choice.
Level of evidence Retrospective comparative study, level III.
- intramedullary nailing
- tibia fractures
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