Tibial fractures are the most common long bone fracture. The standard of care for the treatment of diaphyseal tibial fractures is an intramedullary nail (IMN). Implant removal is one of the most common procedures in bone and joint surgery, and criteria for implant removal are typically left to the treating surgeon. We conducted a prospective study to investigate effects of intramedullary nail removal after tibial fracture union.
Methods: Sixty patients at our hospital were enrolled in a prospective study and divided into moderate/severe knee pain (visual analog scale (VAS) - 4) and mild/no knee pain (VAS < 4) groups after interlocking intramedullary nailing. Variables studied included the distance from the tip of the nail to the tibial plateau and the front of the tibia on a normalized lateral X-ray, the VAS score of knee and ankle pain, the range of motion of the knee and ankle, and Johner–Wruhs criteria before, 6 weeks after operation, and at the last follow-up.
Results: Fifty-seven patients were followed for a mean of 8.4 (2–17) months. In patients with moderate or severe knee pain intramedullary nail removal led to significant pain reductions (p < 0.05). A significantly shorter distance from the tip of the nail to the tibial plateau (<10 mm) and the anterior border of tibia (<6 mm) was found in the 24 patients with moderate or severe knee pain.
Conclusion: For patients complaining knee pain after interlocking intramedullary nailing of tibial fractures, especially with a short distance from the tip of the nail tail to the tibial plateau(<10 mm) and the anterior border of the tibia (<6 mm) removal of the intramedullary nails relieved the pain significantly.