Confirm the location of the growth plate with image intensification and protect it, taking care not to strip the adjacent periosteum.
3. Reduction and fixation of the articular fracture
Removal of impediments
It may be necessary to remove interposed soft-tissue and periosteum prior to reduction of the fracture under direct vision.
Reduce and hold the epiphyseal fracture with forceps.
Insert a K-wire in the epiphysis parallel to the growth plate to temporarily fix the fracture.
Once the epiphyseal fracture has been reduced and stabilized, reduce the metaphyseal fracture. This can also be stabilized with a K-wire.
Confirm anatomical reduction with image intensification.
Planning for screw insertion
The epiphyseal fracture may be stabilized with a separate screw.
The position of this screw should not interfere with the planned plate placement.
Insertion of guide wire
Insert a guide wire in the epiphysis parallel to and away from the growth plate.
If the K-wire for temporary fixation is in an ideal position for the screw this can be used instead.
Pitfall: The K-wires should not be inserted too far anteriorly to avoid the trochlea, and not too far posteriorly to avoid the notch.
Epiphyseal screw insertion
Determine the appropriate screw length.
Pitfall: The distal femur is trapezoidal and a screw that appears the correct length on the AP view may be too long.
Choose a partially threaded screw ensuring that the thread will not cross the fracture.
Insert the screw and compress the fracture.
Confirm anatomical reduction and fixation of the articular surface with image intensification.
Remove the temporary K-wire.
4. Plate fixation
Plate contouring is often required to match the anatomy of the femur.
Secure the plate with bone holding forceps.
Insertion of screws
Prior to screw insertion make sure that both ends of the plate are well aligned and have good contact with the bone. Check the femoral alignment with image intensification before screw placement.
Start with insertion of a screw on both ends of the plate and then insert further screws.
Insert one or two screws through the plate distal to the growth plate.
Insert two or three screws through the plate proximal to the fracture zone.
Final construct with an adult condylar plate
5. Final assessment
Check implant position and fracture reduction with image intensification.
Use clinical examination to check lower extremity alignment.
Immediate postoperative care
The patient should get out of bed and begin ambulation with crutches on the first postoperative day.
In most cases the postoperative protocol will be touch-weight bearing for the first 4 weeks.
Routine pain medication is prescribed for 3–5 days postoperatively.
The patient should be examined frequently to exclude neurovascular compromise, particularly following displaced, high-energy fractures, when deterioration may be delayed.
Compartment syndrome, although rare, should be considered in the presence of severe swelling, increasing pain, and changes to neurovascular signs.
Discharge from hospital follows local practice and is usually possible after 1–3 days.
The patient should continue ambulation with crutches.
After ORIF, fractures are sufficiently stable for the knee to be immobilized in a removable brace and range-of-motion exercises can begin early in the postoperative phase.
For the more unstable or comminuted fractures, range-of-motion exercises will begin at a slower rate.
Clinical and radiological follow-up is usually undertaken 2 weeks postoperatively.
Follow-up for growth deformity
All patients with physeal fractures of the distal femur should have clinical and radiological examination 8–12 weeks postoperatively to assess for signs of physeal growth disturbance or resumption of growth.
Examination should be repeated at intervals until resumption of normal growth is documented. This can be seen as a horizontal growth line (Harris line) that is parallel to the entire physis on both AP and lateral views.
A growth line that converges towards the growth plate may be the earliest sign of growth arrest and should prompt investigation/treatment or referral as appropriate.
Clinical assessment of leg length and alignment is recommended at one-year.
Clinical assessment of leg length uses a tape measure from the ASIS to the medial malleolus.
If there is any concern about leg length discrepancy or malalignment, long leg x-rays are recommended.
Leg length is measured from the femoral head to the ankle joint.
If symptoms develop, plate and screws can be removed once the fracture is completely healed, usually 6–12 months postoperatively.
If K-wires are used, they are typically removed after 4–6 weeks.