A Critical Analysis of the Eccentric Starting Point for Trochanteric Intramedullary Femoral Nailing

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Abstract

Objectives:

Antegrade femoral intramedullary nailing through a greater trochanteric insertion site has been proposed for the treatment of subtrochanteric fractures. The currently available trochanteric nails have dissimilar characteristics, and the most appropriate insertion site for satisfactory subtrochanteric fracture alignment has not been determined. This study is an analysis of 5 different trochanteric femoral nails and 3 different insertion sites using a cadaveric model of a reverse obliquity subtrochanteric femur fracture to determine the optimal trochanteric entry site.

Setting:

OSHA-approved cadaveric laboratory with an OEC 9800 (General Electric Company, Fairfield, CT) fluoroscopic C-arm.

Methods:

Twenty-one embalmed human cadaveric femurs were stripped of soft tissues. Three different starting points on the anteroposterior radiograph were used: at the tip of the greater trochanter, and 2 to 3 mm medial and lateral to the tip. A reverse obliquity subtrochanteric fracture was created. The Trochanteric Antegrade Nail (TAN), Gamma nail (2nd and 3rd generations), Trochanteric Fixation Nail (TFN), and the Holland Nail were then inserted. The proximal bend and radius of curvature were calculated for each nail. Varus and valgus angulation as well as lateral gapping were measured on radiographs; also calculated were the mean, range, and standard deviation. Statistical analysis was performed on angulation and gapping at the fracture site by using Fisher least significant differences analysis, based on a 2-way ANOVA test.

Results:

The Holland nail had a proximal bend of 10° and a radius of 300 cm. TAN was 5° and 350 cm, TFN was 6° and 150 cm, Gamma 2 was 4° and 300 cm, and Gamma 3 was 4° and 200 cm. The tip starting point led to the most neutral alignment regardless of nail. The lateral starting point led to varus with all nails. The medial starting point led to valgus of >6° with the Holland and TFN; Gamma and TAN had better alignment with <4° of valgus. Gapping of the lateral cortex was greatest with a lateral starting point.

Conclusions:

An analysis of 5 trochanteric intramedullary nails with different proximal bends and 3 different starting points in the greater trochanter showed that the tip of the trochanter is close to the “universal” starting point. In this cadaveric subtrochanteric fracture model, the tip starting point led to the most neutral alignment regardless of nail used. The lateral starting point led to varus and gapping of the lateral cortex with all nails.

Clinical Relevance:

Subtrochanteric fractures treated with a trochanteric antegrade nail should have an acceptable reduction before nail insertion. The tip of the trochanter, or even slightly medial, on anteroposterior fluoroscopy is recommended as the universal starting point for these nails. However, slight deviations from this point and nail geometry can cause fracture site malalignment. A lateral starting point led to varus alignment and should be avoided.

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