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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 50  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 455-463

Surgical stabilization for open tibial fractures in children: External fixation or elastic stable intramedullary nail - which method is optimal?

1 Department of Clinical Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland
2 Department of Emergency, Mater Hospital, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Correspondence Address:
Rohan A Ramasubbu
13/2 Gilmore Place, Edinburgh, EH3 9NE
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5413.189613

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Background: Management of open tibial fractures is well documented in adults, with existing protocols outlining detailed treatment strategies. No clear guidelines exist for children. Surgical stabilization of tibial fractures in the pediatric population requires implants that do not disrupt the open epiphyses (growth plate). Both elastic stable intramedullary nails and external fixation can be used. The objective of this study was to identify the optimal method of surgical stabilization in the treatment of open tibial fractures in children. Materials and Methods: MEDLINE and Embase were searched from their inception to March 2014 using the following advanced search terms (Key words): “open tibia fracture,” “fracture fixation,” “external fixation,” “intramedullary,” and “bone nail.” Only studies in English and pertaining to children with open fractures treated with elastic stable intramedullary nails or external fixation between 1994 and 2014 were included. Twelve clinical studies were critically appraised. Results: Due to a paucity in the literature coupled with a nonsystematic presentation of results, it proved to be very difficult in extracting relevant results from the studies. This was further added by a variation in outcome measures. Consequently, the results we obtained were difficult to draw conclusions from. Conclusion: There is no conclusive evidence or best practice guidelines for their management. Thus, as is highlighted in this study, more research is needed to determine the optimum treatment strategy for this common pediatric injury. The existing literature is of poor quality; consisting mainly of retrospective reviews of patients' medical records, charts, and radiographs. Carefully designed, high-quality prospective cohort studies utilizing a nationalized multi-hospital approach are needed to improve understanding before protocols and guidelines can be developed and implemented.

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