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Clinical and Radiographic Predictors of Nonunion in Open Tibial Shaft Fractures. Orthopedics 2021 May-Jun;44(3):142-147



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Open fracture is a risk factor for nonunion of diaphyseal tibia fractures. Compared with closed injuries, there is a relative lack of scientific knowledge regarding the healing of open tibia fractures. The objective of this study was to investigate which patient, injury, and surgeon-related factors predict nonunion in open tibial shaft fractures. A cohort of 98 patients with 104 extra-articular open tibial shaft fractures (OTA/AO 41A2-3, 42A-C, and 43A) were treated surgically between 2007 and 2018 at a single level 1 trauma center and were retrospectively reviewed. Patients underwent irrigation and debridement followed by definitive intramedullary nailing or plate fixation. Patient, injury, and perioperative prognostic factors were analyzed as predictors of nonunion based on anteroposterior and lateral radiographs. The nonunion rate was 27.9% (n=29). There were 12 occurrences of deep infection (11.5%). The median follow-up was 14 months. High-energy mechanism of injury (hazard ratio [HR], 5.76), Gustilo-Anderson class IIIA injury (HR, 3.66), postoperative cortical continuity of 0% to 25% (HR, 2.90), early postoperative complication (HR, 4.20), and deep infection (HR, 2.25) were significant predictors of nonunion on univariable analysis (P<.05). On multivariable assessment, only high-energy mechanism of injury, Gustilo-Anderson class IIIA injury, and early postoperative complication reached significance as predictors of nonunion. These data also indicate that lack of cortical continuity is a significant univariable radiographic predictor of nonunion. This is potentially modifiable, may guide surgeons in selecting patients for early bone grafting procedures, and should be assessed carefully in this high-risk population. [Orthopedics. 2021;44(3):142-147.].

Author List

Ford AN, Harkin EA, Lyons MM, Summers HD, Hecht GG, Lack WD, Cohen JB


Elizabeth Harkin MD Assistant Professor in the Orthopaedic Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Cohort Studies
Fracture Fixation, Intramedullary
Fracture Healing
Fractures, Open
Middle Aged
Postoperative Complications
Retrospective Studies
Risk Factors
Tibial Fractures
Young Adult