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01.12.2019 | Original article | Ausgabe 1/2019 Open Access

Journal of Orthopaedics and Traumatology 1/2019

Lower limb lengthening over an intramedullary nail: a long-term follow-up study of 28 cases

Journal of Orthopaedics and Traumatology > Ausgabe 1/2019
Pasquale Farsetti, Fernando De Maio, Vito Potenza, Kristian Efremov, Martina Marsiolo, Alessandro Caterini, Ernesto Ippolito
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Limb lengthening using an external fixator requires a long period of external fixation and may be associated with several complications such as axial deformity, fracture of the regenerated bone, and joint stiffness. With the goal of reducing the time of external fixation as well as some of these complications, we performed femoral or tibial lengthening over an intramedullary nail, according to Paley’s technique, in 28 patients, followed up after a mean period of 8 years.

Materials and methods

Twenty-eight patients treated for lower limb discrepancy by limb lengthening over an intramedullary nail were reviewed from 5 to 11 years after healing of regenerated bone. There were 20 femurs and 8 tibiae, with average age at surgery of 14.2 years and average length inequality of 6.1 cm for femurs and 5.3 cm for tibiae.


The mean lengthening was 5.8 cm for femurs and 4.8 cm for tibiae. The mean period of radiographic consolidation of the regenerated bone was 6 months for femoral lengthening and 4.5 months for tibial lengthening. At follow-up, we observed 8 excellent results, 15 good results, 4 fair results, and 1 poor result, based on Paley’s evaluation criteria. The main complications were one deep infection, one nonunion of the distracted segment, one breakage of the distal fiche of the external fixator, and one breakage of both distal locking screws of the intramedullary nail.


We believe that limb lengthening over an intramedullary nail still represents a good method to treat limb length discrepancy because it reduces the time of external fixation, prevents axial deformities and fractures of regenerated bone, and allows early rehabilitation. The new intramedullary lengthening nails, which theoretically are the ideal device for treating limb length inequality, are still very expensive and need longer follow-up for definitive evaluation.

Level of evidence

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