Aim and objective: The insertion of an intramedullary nail may be beneficial in certain cases of leg length discrepancy (LLD) in children. However, it is unknown if the physeal injury due to the surgery may cause bone bridge formation and thereby growth arrest after removal. This study aimed to assess longitudinal interphyseal growth 16 weeks after insertion and later removal of a retrograde femoral nail passing through the physis. Moreover, to analyse the tissue forming in the empty physeal canal after removal of the nail.
Materials and methods: The study was carried out using an experimental porcine model. Eleven juvenile female porcines were randomized for insertion of a retrograde femoral nail in one limb. The other limb acted as a control. The animals were housed for 8 weeks before the nail was removed and housed for 8 additional weeks, that is, 16 weeks in total. Growth was assessed by interphyseal distance on 3D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) after 16 weeks and the operated limb was compared to the non-operated limb. Histomorphometric analysis of the physeal canal was performed.
Results: No difference in longitudinal growth was observed when comparing the operated femur to the non-operated femur using MRI after 16 weeks. No osseous tissue crossing the physis was observed on MRI or histology. The empty canal in the physis after nail removal was filled with fibrous tissue 16 weeks after primary surgery.
Conclusion: Growth was not impaired and no bone bridges were seen on MRI or histology 16 weeks after insertion and later removal of the retrograde femoral nail.
Clinical significance: The insertion of a retrograde intramedullary femoral nail centrally through the physis and later removal might be safe, however, long-term follow-up is needed.
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