Background: Intercalary allografts are used for the reconstruction of major skeletal defects. Step-cuts help to provide rotational stability when intramedullary fixation is used. A modified step-cut is proposed to reduce rotation at the interface. This study compares the rotational stability of conventional and modified step-cuts.
Methods: In Phase I, seven pairs of human cadaveric femora were divided into a conventional step-cut group (left femora) and a modified step-cut group (right femora). All femora were cut transversely at the mid-diaphysis. In the conventional group, a 1-cm step-cut was created in the exact midsagittal plane in both the proximal and distal segments. In the modified group, a 1-cm step-cut was created in the parasagittal plane, leaving 2 mm of additional bone on both the proximal and the distal fragment. Phase II was identical except that in the modified step-cut group only 1 mm of additional bone was left. Smooth femoral nails were then placed after standard reaming. Specimens were tested by fixing the proximal segment and applying ±2 N-m (17.7 in-lb) of torque to the distal segments with ten oscillation cycles. Maximum rotation was measured. The data were analyzed with the paired Student t test.
Results: The average rotation in Phase I was 23.3° for the conventional step-cut group and 3.0° for the 2-mm modified step-cut group; the difference was significant (p < 0.001). Four femora sustained an incomplete fracture during nail insertion. The average rotation in Phase II was 20.6° for the conventional step-cut group and 0.5° for the 1-mm modified step-cut group without any fractures; the difference was significant (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Step-cut modification that leaves more bone in the sagittal plane provides rigid fixation and significantly more stability than the conventional step-cut technique.
Clinical Relevance: Such a modification should facilitate osseous incorporation of an intercalary allograft while providing the benefits of intramedullary fixation. Excessive modification (>1 mm) can result in a fracture of the graft.