Background: Intramedullary lengthening nails have shown excellent short-term results. The FITBONE and the PRECICE nail are the two most commonly used intramedullary lengthening nails. The manufacturer of each nail recommends the removal of the implant after the completion of the treatment. Despite the need for removal of each nail, the authors are not aware of any prior publications documenting the results of standard intramedullary lengthening nail removal. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine the intraoperative and postoperative complications of elective intramedullary lengthening nail removals.
Materials and methods: We performed a retrospective chart review of patients operated with intramedullary lengthening nails at two limb reconstruction centres (one in the United States, and the second in Denmark). Data retrieved from the patient charts included patient demographics, nail information and any complications occurring at or after nail removal. Only lower limb lengthening with FITBONE and PRECICE or STRYDE nails that had an elective nail removal was included.
Result: A total of 271 elective nail removals were included in the study. Complications occurred during 3% of the nail removals and in 13% after nail removal. There were 18 reported cases with postoperative knee pain. All these patients had nail removal through the knee joint, representing 8% of the retrograde femur nail removals and 7% of the tibia nail removals. Four postoperative fractures occurred, of which two needed surgery. Eleven percent of femur removals and 26% of tibial removals sustained a complication.
Conclusion and clinical significance: This study emphasises the importance of adequate follow-up of the bone lengthening patient even after the nail has been removed. It also shows that the recommended removal of the intramedullary nail (IMN) lengthening nails must be included in studies reporting on the overall risks of complications using bone lengthening nails.
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