We compared the outcome of closed intramedullary nailing with minimally invasive plate osteosynthesis using a percutaneous locked compression plate in patients with a distal metaphyseal fracture in a prospective study. A total of 85 patients were randomised to operative stabilisation either by a closed intramedullary nail (44) or by minimally invasive osteosynthesis with a compression plate (41). Pre-operative variables included the patients' age and the side and pattern of the fracture. Peri-operative variables were the operating time and the radiation time. Postoperative variables were wound problems, the time to union of the fracture, the functional American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle surgery score and removal of hardware. We found no significant difference in the pre-operative variables or in the time to union in the two groups. However, the mean radiation time and operating time were significantly longer in the locked compression plate group (3.0 vs 2.12 minutes, p < 0.001, and 97.9 vs 81.2 minutes, p < 0.001, respectively).After one year, all the fractures had united. Patients who had intramedullary nailing had a higher mean pain score (40 = no pain, 0 = severe pain), [corrected] but better function, alignment and total American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle surgery scores, although the differences were not statistically significant (p = 0.234, p = 0.157, p = 0.897, p = 0.177 respectively). Three (6.8%) patients in the intramedullary nailing group and six (14.6%) in the locked compression plate group showed delayed wound healing, and 37 (84.1%) in the former group and 38 (92.7%) in the latter group expressed a wish to have the implant removed. We conclude that both closed intramedullary nailing and a percutaneous locked compression plate can be used safely to treat Orthopaedic Trauma Association type-43A distal metaphyseal fractures of the tibia. However, closed intramedullary nailing has the advantage of a shorter operating and radiation time and easier removal of the implant. We therefore prefer closed intramedullary nailing for patients with these fractures.





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