INTRODUCTION: Elastic stable intramedullary nailing (ESIN) is currently considered the gold standard in surgical treatment of femur and tibial shaft fractures in school age paediatric patients. Although elastic intramedullary nails are available in both titanium (Ti) and stainless steel (SS) alloy, titanium nails are most commonly used. Nevertheless, there is still contrasting evidence as to whether the use of Ti nails can offer better outcomes in terms of fracture healing and stability over SS nails. The aim of this study was to compare outcomes and complications of Ti and SS ESIN for femur and tibia shaft fractures in a population of school age paediatric patients.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: All consecutive patients who underwent ESIN for femoral or tibial shaft fracture from June 2012 to May 2015 at our centre were retrospectively reviewed. Standard demographic data were collected. Pre-operative and post-operative X-rays were reviewed, complications were collected from patients charts. Patients were divided in two groups, titanium nails (Ti group) and stainless steel nails (SS group) and outcomes compared between the two.
RESULTS: A total of 34 patients were included (17 patients Ti group, 17 patients SS group) with a total of 14 femur and 21 tibia fractures. Average age at surgery was 9.4 ± 2.5 years in Ti group and 10.4 ± 2.4 years in SS group (p = 0.21). The average time to bone healing was 3 months in Ti group, and 2.8 months in SS group (p = 0.63). At final follow-up (12 months), no patient showed a coronal plane or sagittal plane deformity >10° and >15°, respectively. Complication rate was similar between the two groups (24% Ti group, 22% SS group).
CONCLUSIONS: We did not observe any significant difference in terms of bone healing, fracture mechanical stability, return to full activity, and complication rate between Ti and SS ESIN for paediatric femoral and tibial shaft fractures. While Ti nails remain a better choice for patients with metal allergy, SS nails may offer safe, effective, and cheaper alternative to Ti nails in school age femur and tibial shaft fractures.