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      Predictors of nonunion and reoperation in patients with fractures of the tibia: an observational study

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          Abstract

          Background

          Tibial shaft fractures are the most common long bone fracture and are prone to complications such as nonunion requiring reoperations to promote fracture healing. We aimed to determine the fracture characteristics associated with tibial fracture nonunion, and their predictive value on the need for reoperation. We further aimed to evaluate the predictive value of a previously-developed prognostic index of three fracture characteristics on nonunion and reoperation rate.

          Methods

          We conducted an observational study and developed a risk factor list from previous literature and key informants in the field of orthopaedic surgery, as well as via a sample-to-redundancy strategy. We evaluated 22 potential risk factors for the development of tibial fracture nonunion in 200 tibial fractures. We also evaluated the predictive value of a previously-identified prognostic risk index on secondary intervention and/or reoperation rate. Two individuals independently extracted the data from 200 patient electronic medical records. An independent reviewer assessed the initial x-ray, the post-operative x-ray, and all available sequential x-rays. Regression and chi-square analysis was used to evaluate potential associations.

          Results

          In our cohort of patients, 37 (18.5%) had a nonunion and 27 (13.5%) underwent a reoperation. Patients with a nonunion were 97 times (95% CI 25.8-366.5) more likely to have a reoperation. Multivariable logistic regression revealed that fractures with less than 25% cortical continuity were predictive of nonunion (odds ratio = 4.72; p = 0.02). Such fractures also accounted for all of the reoperations identified in our sample. Furthermore, our data provided preliminary validation of a previous risk index predictive of reoperation that includes the presence of a fracture gap post-fixation, open fracture, and transverse fracture type as variables, with an aggregate of fracture gap and an open fracture yielding patients with the highest risk of developing a nonunion.

          Conclusions

          We identified a significant association between degree of cortical continuity and the development of a nonunion and risk for reoperation in tibial shaft fractures. In addition, our study supports the predictive value of a previous prognostic index, which inform discussion of prognosis following operative management of tibial fractures.

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          Most cited references 28

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          Nonunion of the femoral diaphysis. The influence of reaming and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

          We assessed factors which may affect union in 32 patients with nonunion of a fracture of the diaphysis of the femur and 67 comparable patients whose fracture had united. These included gender, age, smoking habit, the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) the type of fracture (AO classification), soft-tissue injury (open or closed), the type of nail, the mode of locking, reaming nu non-reaming, infection, failure of the implant, distraction at the fracture site, and the time to full weight-bearing. Patients with severe head injuries were excluded. Both groups were comparable with regard to gender, Injury Severity Score and soft-tissue injury. There was no relationship between the rate of union and the type of implant, mode of locking, reaming, distraction or smoking. There were fewer cases of nonunion in more comminuted fractures (type C) and in patients who were able to bear weight early. There was a marked association between nonunion and the use of NSAIDs after injury (p = 0.000001) and delayed healing was noted in patients who took NSAIDs and whose fractures had united.
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            Predictors of reoperation following operative management of fractures of the tibial shaft.

            Accurate prediction of likelihood of reoperation in patients with tibial shaft fractures would facilitate optimal management. Previous studies were limited by small sample sizes and noncomprehensive examination of possible risk factors. We conducted an observational study to determine which prognostic factors were associated with an increased risk of reoperation following operative treatment in a heterogeneous population of patients with tibial shaft fractures. Retrospective observational study. Level 1 trauma center. We identified 200 patients with tibial shaft fractures from two university-affiliated centers. Two reviewers independently abstracted data regarding 20 possible prognostic variables, reviewed preoperative and postoperative radiographs, and documented reoperations (defined as any surgical procedure
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              Treatment of open fractures of the shaft of the tibia.

              We have systematically reviewed the effect of alternative methods of stabilisation of open tibial fractures on the rates of reoperation, and the secondary outcomes of nonunion, deep and superficial infection, failure of the implant and malunion by the analysis of 799 citations on the subject, identified from computerised databases. Although 68 proved to be potentially eligible, only eight met all criteria for inclusion. Three investigators independently graded the quality of each study and extracted the relevant data. One study (n = 56 patients) suggested that the use of external fixators significantly decreased the requirement for reoperation when compared with fixation with plates. The use of unreamed nails, compared with external fixators (five studies, n = 396 patients), reduced the risk of reoperation, malunion and superficial infection. Comparison of reamed with unreamed nails showed a reduced risk of reoperation (two studies, n = 132) with the reamed technique. An indirect comparison between reamed nails and external fixators also showed a reduced risk of reoperation (two studies) when using nails. We have identified compelling evidence that unreamed nails reduced the incidence of reoperations, superficial infections and malunions, when compared with external fixators. The relative merits of reamed versus unreamed nails in the treatment of open tibial fractures remain uncertain.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BMC Musculoskelet Disord
                BMC Musculoskelet Disord
                BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
                BioMed Central
                1471-2474
                2013
                22 March 2013
                : 14
                : 103
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
                [2 ]Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
                Article
                1471-2474-14-103
                10.1186/1471-2474-14-103
                3614478
                23517574
                Copyright ©2013 Fong et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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                Research Article

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