Background: Tibial shaft fractures are the most common long-bone injury, with a reported annual incidence of more than 75 000 in the United States. This study aimed to determine whether patients with tibial fractures managed with intramedullary nails experience a lower rate of reoperation if treated at higher-volume hospitals, or by higher-volume or more experienced surgeons.
Methods: The Study to Prospectively Evaluate Reamed Intramedullary Nails in Patients with Tibial Fractures (SPRINT) was a multicentre randomized clinical trial comparing reamed and nonreamed intramedullary nailing on rates of reoperation to promote fracture union, treat infection or preserve the limb in patients with open and closed fractures of the tibial shaft. Using data from SPRINT, we quantified centre and surgeon volumes into quintiles. We performed analyses adjusted for type of fracture (open v. closed), type of injury (isolated v. multitrauma), gender and age for the primary outcome of reoperation using multivariable logistic regression.
Results: There were no significant differences in the odds of reoperation between high- and low-volume centres (p = 0.9). Overall, surgeon volume significantly affected the odds of reoperation (p = 0.03). The odds of reoperation among patients treated by moderate-volume surgeons were 50% less than those among patients treated by verylow-volume surgeons (odds ratio [OR] 0.50, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.28–0.88), and the odds of reoperation among patients treated by high-volume surgeons were 47% less than those among patients treated by very-low-volume surgeons (OR 0.53, 95% CI 0.30–0.93).
Conclusion: There appears to be no significant additional patient benefit in treatment by a higher-volume centre for intramedullary fixation of tibial shaft fractures. Additional research on the effects of surgical and clinical site volume in tibial shaft fracture management is needed to confirm this finding. The odds of reoperation were higher in patients treated by very-low-volume surgeons; this finding may be used to optimize the results of tibial shaft fracture management. Clinical trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT00038129
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research grants were received from the following: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (#MCT-38140) (primary investigator: Gordon Guyatt); National Institutes of Health (NIAMS-072 and R01-AR48529) (primary investigator: Marc Swiontkowski); Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (primary investigator: Paul Tornetta III); Orthopaedic Trauma Association (primary investigator: Mohit Bhandari); Hamilton Health Sciences Research Grant (primary investigator: Mohit Bhandari); and Zimmer Corp. (primary investigator: Mohit Bhandari). Mohit Bhandari was also funded in part by a Canada Research Chair in Musculoskeletal Trauma (McMaster University).
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