Low complication rate of elastic stable intramedullary nailing (ESIN) of pediatric forearm fractures: A retrospective study of 202 cases

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Elastic stable intramedullary nailing (ESIN) has been established as state of the art treatment for forearm fractures in children, if operative stabilization is required. Their use has been expanded to single bone shaft fractures, and also more complex injuries such as Monteggia fractures or Monteggia-like lesions. A wide range of complications has been reported in the literature, up to 70% in certain investigations. The purpose of this study was to assess the complication rate after ESIN treatment of forearm fractures in children and adolescents in a representative cohort of patients from a level 1 trauma center in Germany.

Between 2000 and 2015, we retrospectively analyzed all patients, up to the age of 16 years, with forearm fractures, who were operatively treated using ESIN in our department of general and trauma surgery. The main outcome measurements were the rates of postoperative complications after ESIN such as re-fracture, malunion, nonunion, tendon lesion, wound infection, and limited range of motion.

In all, 201 consecutive patients with 202 forearm fractures were included in this study. Age averaged 9.7 years (range 3–16 years). Fifteen (7.4%) fractures were open. Fractures were 82.2% diaphyseal both-bone forearm fractures. Follow-up averaged 10.2 months (range 0.7–176.3 months). Complications were 10 re-fractures, 2 malunions, 3 extensor pollicis longus tendon ruptures, 1 superficial wound infection, and 2 limited range of motions. Fourteen (6.9%) children required a secondary operative intervention for their complication. Time to implant removal averaged 3.8 months (range 0.4–16.3 months).

Elastic stable intramedullary nailing is a minimally invasive and reliable technique with a low complication rate. Both-bone forearm fractures and single bone fractures, and also Monteggia and Monteggia-equivalent fractures can be successfully treated with this method. As a major complication, re-fractures are frequently seen, even with ESIN in situ.

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