Repair of tibial nonunions and bone defects with the taylor spatial frame

S. Robert Rozbruch, Jacob S. Pugsley, Austin T. Fragomen, Svetlana Ilizarov

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118 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the outcomes of tibial nonunions and bone defects treated with the Taylor Spatial Frame (TSF) using the Ilizarov method. Design: Retrospective. Setting: Limb Lengthening and Deformity Service at an academic medical center. Patients: Thirty-eight consecutive patients with 38 tibial nonunions were treated with the TSF. There were 23 patients with bone defects (average 5.9 cm) and 22 patients with leg-length discrepancy (LLD) (average 3.1 cm) resulting in an average longitudinal deficiency (sum of bone defect and LLD) of 6.5 cm in 31 patients (1-16). The average number of previous surgeries was 4 (0-20). At the time of surgery, 19 (50%) nonunions were diagnosed as infected. Intervention: All patients underwent repair of the nonunion and application of a TSF. Patients with bone loss were additionally treated with lengthening. Infected nonunions were treated with 6 weeks of culture-specific antibiotics. Main Outcome Measurements: Bony union, time in frame, eradication of infection, leg-length discrepancy, deformity, Short Form-36 (SF-36) scores, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) lower-limb scores, and Association for the Study of the Method of Ilizarov (ASAMI) bone and functional results. Results: Bony union was achieved after the initial treatment in 27 (71%) patients. The presence of bone infection correlated with initial failure and persistent nonunion (P = 0.03). The 11 persistent nonunions were re-treated with TSF reapplication in 4, intramedullary rodding in 3, plate fixation in 2, and amputation in 2 patients. This resulted in final bony union in 36 (95%) patients. The average LLD was 1.8 cm (0-6.8) (SD 2). Alignment with deformity less than 5° was achieved in 32 patients and alignment between 6° and 10° was achieved in 4 patients. Significant improvement of Short Form-36 (SF-36) scores was noted in physical role (P = 0.03) and physical function (P = 0.001). AAOS lower-limb module scores significantly improved from 56 to 82 (P < 0.001). ASAMI bone and functional outcomes were excellent or good in 36 and 34 patients, respectively. The number of previous surgeries correlated inversely with the ASAMI bone (P = 0.003) and functional (P = 0.001) scores. Conclusions: One can comprehensively approach tibial nonunions with the TSF. This is particularly useful in the setting of stiff hypertrophic nonunion, infection, bone loss, LLD, and poor softtissue envelope. Infected nonunions have a higher risk of failure than noninfected cases. Treatment after fewer failed surgeries will lead to a better outcome. Internal fixation can be used to salvage initial failures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-95
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Trauma
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone defects
  • Ilizarov method
  • Taylor spatial frame (TSF)
  • Tibial nonunions


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