Compression plating provides fixation with absolute stability for two-part fracture patterns, where the bone fragments can be compressed. Compression plating alone is typically used for simple fracture patterns with low obliquity, where there is insufficient room for a lag screw. Where the obliquity will permit, the addition of a lag screw, across the fracture and through the plate, enhances stability.
Compression plating can only be applied in an open procedure.
The objective of compression plating is to produce absolute stability, abolishing all interfragmentary motion.
Dynamic compression principle
Compression of the fracture is usually produced by eccentric screw placement at one or more of the dynamic compression plate holes.
The screw head slides down the inclined plate hole as it is tightened, the head forcing the plate to move along the bone, thereby compressing the fracture.
Plate position on the femur/tension band principle
As a general rule the plate should be positioned on the lateral aspect of the femur.
A plate acts as a dynamic tension band when applied to the tension side of the bone and when a cortical contact is present on the opposite side to the plate.
With vertical load, the curved femur creates a tensile force laterally and a compressive force medially.
A plate positioned on the side of the tensile force resists it at the fracture site, provided there is stable cortical contact opposite to the plate.
Further information on the tension band principle can be found here.
It is important to restore axial alignment, length, and rotation. That means, in a simple spiral or oblique fracture, a direct reduction of the main fragments is required.
Reduction can be performed with direct reduction tools.
2. Patient preparation
The patient may be placed in one of the following positions:
Subtrochanteric fractures present a particular problem in terms of fracture reduction and alignment. Due to the strong iliopsoas muscle pull, the proximal fragment is flexed and externally rotated and therefore difficult to control.
In an open plating technique, a preliminary reduction can be undertaken to facilitate the final reduction. Usually, large reduction clamps are used under direct vision.
Use of colinear clamp
A colinear clamp has also proven to be helpful in such cases.
A cerclage wire is also useful in simple spiral and simple oblique fractures.
5. Plate fixation to proximal fragment
Guide wire insertion and verification of trajectories
The proximal femoral plate is anatomically shaped to match the profile of the upper femur. First, the plate is adjusted optimally to fit the proximal fragment. Through the two attached wire guides, the proximal 2.5 mm guide wires are inserted into the proximal fragment.
The positions of the guide wires are verified under image intensification in both planes (AP and lateral).
Screw length measurement
The correct screw lengths are determined by measuring the remaining guide wire length, using the dedicated measuring device.
Proximal 7.3 mm screw insertion
Cannulated 7.3 mm screws (locking or nonlocking) are inserted over the guide wires into the proximal fragment.
6. Plate fixation to distal fragment
Insertion of first screw into distal fragment
If the overall reduction is found to be satisfactory, the first cortical screw is placed in the distal fragment near the fracture. The screw is placed eccentrically.
Before compressing the fracture plane by tightening the eccentrically inserted screw, in fractures with the illustrated obliquity (laterally and distally) a firm clamp should grip the medial tip of the distal fragment to the plate to prevent shearing at the fracture. This clamp can be removed prior to insertion of the supplementary lag screw.
Alternative: articulated tension device
In cases of nonunion, the articulated tension device is helpful in producing compression.
To improve the compression further, the first screw in the distal fragment can be placed eccentrically.
The tension device is dismantled after two additional neutral screws are placed in the distal fragment.
Placement of additional screws in the distal fragment
In accordance with the preoperative planning, additional screws are placed in the proximal and distal fragments.
Pearl: osteoporotic bone
In osteoporotic bone the use of bicortical locking screws is advantageous.
Pearl: lag screw
The use of lag screws, inserted after fracture compression, is recommended in simple spiral and oblique fractures.
The lag screw may be independent of the plate, or through the plate, depending on the exact fracture configuration.
Illustration showing the lag screw inserted through the plate.
Close monitoring of the femoral muscle compartments should be carried out especially during the first 48 hours, in order to rule out compartment syndrome.
In all cases in which radiological control has not been used during the procedure, a check x-ray to determine the correct placement of the implant and fracture reduction should be taken within 24 hours.
Unless there are other injuries or complications, mobilization may be started on postoperative day 1. Static quadriceps exercises with passive range of motion of the knee should be encouraged. If a continuous passive motion device is used, this must be discontinued at regular intervals for the essential static muscle exercises. Afterwards special emphasis should be placed on active knee and hip movement.
Full weight bearing may be performed with crutches or a walker.
Wound healing should be assessed regularly within the first two weeks. Subsequently a 6 and 12 week clinical and radiological follow-up is usually made. A longer period may be required if the fracture healing is delayed.
Implant removal is not mandatory and should be discussed with the patient, if there are implant-related symptoms after consolidated fracture healing.