Suprapatellar tibial nailing: a learning curve analysis.
Valsamis EM., Iliopoulos E., Williams R., Trompeter A.
PURPOSE: The suprapatellar approach for intramedullary nailing of tibial fractures is gaining popularity with reported improved patient outcomes when compared to infrapatellar techniques. The aim of this study was to investigate the learning curve of the suprapatellar technique using radiation exposure as an outcome measure. METHODS: Data were analysed from a prospectively collected database over a 3-year period at a Major Trauma Centre in the United Kingdom. 83 study patients with an acute isolated extra-articular fracture of the tibia treated with intramedullary tibial nailing were included. Cases requiring additional intra-operative procedures were excluded. Four consultant trauma surgeons with no previous experience of the suprapatellar technique used this approach for 40 consecutive operations. Six consultant trauma surgeons used the infrapatellar approach for 43 patients and acted as a control group. Patient demographics, fluoroscopy time and radiation dose area product (DAP) were collected for each operation. A segmented linear regression modelling method was employed to analyse learning. RESULTS: Fluoroscopy time and DAP per surgeon showed no evidence of a learning curve when using a suprapatellar tibial nailing technique in group or individual analysis. Fluoroscopy time and DAP were stationary in the infrapatellar group analysis, confirming the absence of time-dependent trends over the study period. CONCLUSIONS: Consultant trauma surgeons experienced no significant learning-related increase in radiation exposure when introducing a suprapatellar technique for intramedullary nailing of uncomplicated tibial fractures. Future work is required to investigate the effects of learning on other outcome measures.