Executive Editor: Chris Colton, Rick Buckley

Authors: Peter V Giannoudis, Hans Christoph Pape, Michael Sch├╝tz

Femur shaft - Simple, oblique, proximal 1/3 fractures

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1 Principles top

Principles enlarge

Compression plate

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.

Principles enlarge

Dynamic compression principle

Compression of the fracture is usually produced by eccentric screw placement at one or more of the dynamic compression plate holes.

Principles enlarge

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.

Principles enlarge

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.


It is important to restore axial alignment, length, and rotation. That means that, in a simple fracture, a direct reduction of the main fragments is required.

Reduction can be performed with direct reduction tools.

2 Reduction top

Reduction enlarge

General considerations

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.

Reduction enlarge

Reduction clamps

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.

Reduction enlarge

Use of colinear clamp

A colinear clamp has also proven to be helpful in such cases.


Cerclage wire

A cerclage wire is also useful in simple spiral and simple oblique fractures.

3 Plate fixation to proximal fragment top

Plate fixation to proximal fragment enlarge

Guide wire insertion

As a first step a guide wire for the condylar screw is inserted proximally.

Therefore, the aiming device is lined up parallel to the femoral neck in both the axial and the AP views, the guide wire should be aimed at the lower portion to the femoral head.

The wire is advanced to just short of the subchondral bone of the femoral head. Its position is checked fluoroscopically in two planes, and adjusted, if necessary.

Plate fixation to proximal fragment enlarge


After indirectly determining the screw length by using the measuring device over the protruding guide wire, reaming is performed over the guide wire with a triple reamer that has been set to the measured screw length.

Plate fixation to proximal fragment enlarge

Condylar screw insertion

The condylar screw is inserted to its final position over the guide wire. The T-handle is lined up parallel to the femoral shaft in order to ensure correct plate alignment.

Plate fixation to proximal fragment enlarge

Plate and screw combination

Next, the plate barrel is slid over the condylar screw shank.

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Plate fixation with cortical screw

After checking the correct plate position, a cortical screw is inserted into the proximal plate hole, in order to secure the plate in the proximal fragment.

4 Plate fixation to distal fragment top

Plate fixation to distal fragment enlarge

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.

Plate fixation to distal fragment enlarge

In cases of nonunion, the articulated tension device is helpful in producing compression.

Plate fixation to distal fragment enlarge

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.

Plate fixation to distal fragment enlarge

Insertion of additional screws into the distal fragment

According to the preoperative planning, additional screws are placed in the proximal and distal fragments.

Plate fixation to distal fragment enlarge

Pearl: lag screw

The use of one or more additional lag screws, inserted after fracture compression, is recommended in simple oblique and spiral fractures.

The lag screw may be independent of the plate, or through the plate, depending on the exact fracture configuration.

v2.0 2018-07-05