Erik N. Kubiak, Eric Strauss, Alfred Grant, David Feldman, Kenneth A. Egol

Department of Orthopedic Surgery, The New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases

Keywords: Bone nails; equipment design; femur/surgery; leg length inequality/surgery; osteogenesis, distraction/instrumentation; tibia/surgery.


Objectives: We evaluated early complications of self-lengthening intramedullary nails during limb lengthening in patients with post-traumatic or growth-related limb length deficiencies.
Patients and methods: A retrospective review was undertaken of all patients who underwent femoral lengthening using the Internal Skeletal Distractor (ISKD Orthofix, McKinney, Texas) device beginning September 2003 at our tertiary care center. Data from the radiographic and clinical records of 11 limbs in nine patients (mean age 24 years; range 16 to 33 years) were derived. Complications were recorded and compared to the demographic data.
Results: Preoperative leg length discrepancies averaged 3.7 cm (range 2.5 to 4.8 cm) and postoperative lengthening averaged 3.1 cm (range 2.3 to 4.4 cm). The mean follow-up was 16 months (range 12 to 26 months). The nails were removed after a mean of 11.5 months (range 8 to 16 months). Complications were encountered with eight ISKD nails (72.7%). Of these, seven complications necessitated the patients returning to the operating room. The average time to reoperation was 21 days (range 4 to 37 days). Two patients had two complications per ISKD. In all, there were four nails which failed to advance and required re-osteotomy, three premature consolidations which required osteoclasis, and one runaway nail advancement of 3.0 mm/day compared to the target lengthening rate of 0.8-1.0 mm/day.
Conclusion: We believe that binding at the osteotomy site was responsible for failure of nail advancement in patients in whom lengthening failed. In the light of the high complication rate, surgeons’ vigilance during the postoperative period is crucial.