Research Article| Volume 42, ISSUE 2, P150-155, February 2011

Leg lengthening using intramedullay skeletal kinetic distractor: Results of 57 consecutive applications



      Mechanically activated intramedullary lengthening nails are advantageous over external fixator. However, difficulties with the control of the distraction rate are the main drawbacks, which may in turn cause insufficient bone regenerate.

      Patients and methods

      A total of 57 lengthening procedures were performed using intramedullary skeletal kinetic distractor (ISKD) nail in 53 patients (femoral = 45 and tibial = 12). Average length gain was 4.3 ± 1.6 cm. The cause of shortening was post-traumatic (n = 33), congenital (n = 20), post-tumour resection (n = 1), cosmetic femoral lengthening (n = 2) and post-correction of distal femoral varus deformity (n = 1).


      The desired lengthening was achieved in all patients. The mean follow-up period was 23 ± 12 months. The healing index for patients with normal bone healing was 1.2 ± 0.32 months/cm. Complications in femoral lengthening were superficial wound infection (n = 1), premature consolidation (n = 4) and insufficient bone regenerate (n = 11), while in the tibial lengthening, two developed equinus contractures, one had compartment syndrome following implantation of the nail and one insufficient bone regenerate. Furthermore, nine runaway nails and three non-distracting nails were present in the femoral lengthening. One non-distracting nail responded to manipulation under anaesthesia, one required exchange nailing and accidental acute lengthening of 3 cm took place while manipulating the third nail. Patients with femoral lengthening and those with insufficient regenerate had significantly higher distraction rates (P = 0.006 and 0.003, respectively). Six out of the nine runaway nails developed insufficient bone regenerate. In addition, 10.7-mm tibial ISKD nails were found to have lower rates of runaway nails compared with other used diameters.


      We emphasise the rule of distraction rates above 1.5 mm/day in the development of insufficient bone regenerate. Distraction problems with these nails are mostly due to dysfunction within the ratcheting mechanism, which may be related to the diameter of the nail. New designs for mechanically activated nails with a better control mechanism for the distraction rate are required.


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