Non-unions are severe complications in orthopaedic trauma care and occur in 10% of all fractures. The golden standard for the treatment of ununited fractures includes open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) as well as augmentation with autologous-bone-grafting. However, there is morbidity associated with the bone-graft donor site and some patients offer limited quantity or quality of autologous-bone graft material. Since allogene bone-grafts are introduced on the market, this comparative study aims to evaluate healing characteristics of ununited bones treated with ORIF combined with either iliac-crest-autologous-bone-grafting (ICABG) or demineralized-bone-matrix (DBM).
From 2000 to 2006 out of sixty-two consecutive patients with non-unions presenting at our Level I Trauma Center, twenty patients had ununited diaphyseal fractures of long bones and were treated by ORIF combined either by ICABG- (n = 10) or DBM-augmentation (n = 10). At the time of index-operation, patients of the DBM-group had a higher level of comorbidity (ASA-value: p = 0.014). Mean duration of follow-up was 56.6 months (ICABG-group) and 41.2 months (DBM-group). All patients were clinically and radiographically assessed and adverse effects related to bone grafting were documented. The results showed that two non-unions augmented with ICABG failed osseous healing (20%) whereas all non-unions grafted by DBM showed successful consolidation during the first year after the index operation (p = 0.146). No early complications were documented in both groups but two patients of the ICABG-group suffered long-term problems at the donor site (20%) (p = 0.146). Pain intensity were comparable in both groups (p = 0.326). However, patients treated with DBM were more satisfied with the surgical procedure (p = 0.031).
With the use of DBM, the costs for augmentation of the non-union-site are more expensive compared to ICABG (calculated difference: 160 €/case). Nevertheless, this study demonstrated that the application of DBM compared to ICABG led to an advanced outcome in the treatment of non-unions and simultaneously to a decreased quantity of adverse effects. Therefore we conclude that DBM should be offered as an alternative to ICABG, in particular to patients with elevated comorbidity and those with limited availability or reduced quality of autologous-bone graft material.