Unstable distal tibia fractures are challenging injuries requiring surgical treatment. Intramedullary nails are frequently used; however, distal fragment fixation problems may arise, leading to delayed healing, malunion or nonunion. Recently, a novel angle-stable locking nail design has been developed that maintains the principle of relative construct stability, but introduces improvements expected to reduce nail toggling, screw migration and secondary loss of reduction, without the requirement for additional intraoperative procedures.
The aim of this study was to investigate the biomechanical competence of a novel angle-stable intramedullary nail concept for treatment of unstable distal tibia fractures, compared to a conventional nail in a human cadaveric model under dynamic loading.
Ten pairs of fresh-frozen human cadaveric tibiae with a simulated AO/OTA 42-A3.1 fracture were assigned to 2 groups for reamed intramedullary nailing using either a conventional (non-angle-stable) Expert Tibia Nail with 3 distal screws (Group 1) or the novel Tibia Nail Advanced system with 2 distal angle-stable locking low-profile screws (Group 2). The specimens were biomechanically tested under conditions including quasi-static and progressively increasing combined cyclic axial and torsional loading in internal rotation until failure of the bone-implant construct, with monitoring by means of motion tracking.
Initial axial construct stiffness, although being higher in Group 2, did not significantly differ between the 2 nail systems, p=0.29. In contrast, initial torsional construct stiffness was significantly higher in Group 2 compared to Group 1, p=0.04. Initial nail toggling of the distal tibia fragment in varus and flexion was lower in Group 2 compared to Group 1, being significant in flexion, p=0.91 and p=0.03, respectively. After 5000 cycles, interfragmentary movements in terms of varus, flexion, internal rotation, axial displacement and shear displacement at the fracture site were all lower in Group 2 compared to Group 1, with flexion and shear displacement being significant, p=0.14, p=0.04, p=0.25, p=0.11 and p=0.04, respectively. Cycles to failure until both interfragmentary 5° varus and 5° flexion were significantly higher in Group 2 compared to Group 1, p=0.04.
From a biomechanical perspective, the novel angle-stable intramedullary nail concept has the potential of achieving a higher initial axial and torsional relative stability and maintaining it with a better resistance towards loss of reduction under dynamic loading, while reducing the number of distal locking screws, compared to conventional locking in intramedullary nailed unstable distal tibia fractures.