Sign Up


  • 1. Setup
  • 2. Exposure and Nail Placement
  • 3. Targeting of Nail
  • 4. Femoral Nail Locking Screws
jkl keys enabled

Retrograde Femoral Intramedullary Nail


Jason P. Den Haese Jr.1; Michael Weaver, MD2
1Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
2Brigham and Women's Hospital



Okay. Blue marker.


So really want you just want to do is think - here’s midline. It’s variable. That should be plenty good since it’s right on the midline. With a tibby, you want to be up under here more. Here it’s almost - you want to go lower. Incision. You can use the whole thing up to the top here. You do? Okay, I thought that - No, no I just changed my mind. It’s like - just be bold. Cut right through that. There’s nothing bad here. Through that tendon - through that tendon. Yeah there we go. That’s it. Don’t go down. You don’t need to go down, right? Cuz you’re going straight that way. With tibia, you’re going down that way. This one - you’ll go straight that way.

Schnidt. That was really nice. See, you’re in the knee. Now feel right in there. You can feel the top of the notch. You want to be right on the top of the notch. Now the other thing to realize is that this is a midshaft femur fracture. They typically go apex posterior, okay? So you’re - you’re gonna aim a little like this - more down, okay? So you want to be right at the top of that notch - in the center, aiming a little bit down. If you put it in the notch when you ream, you’ll ream out the ACL. Okay. So don’t put it there. So like stay right on top? I want you to be like on the - like this is the notch - I want you to be like on the top of the notch. Look at your hand. I want your hand way up. Drop your hand a little bit. There you go. Good, good. Put it in. Don’t push that in - just push that in. Good. That looks pretty good.

Alright, so now let’s go to a lateral. Do we have a... I think it’s just maybe a millimeter too high. Yeah, so - so I like to keep that other pin in place because it’s your guide. X-ray. Alright, now you’ve gotta take out the top one. Now I want you to redirect that one. X-ray. Nice. Good. X-ray. Good. Making your incision in the right spot, so being careful and making it right in the center, then you’re gonna end up right where you want to be, so it just helps you. That looks good. Good. So save that.

So now we’re gonna use the opening reamer, and that’s going to create a hole in the top of the - or the end of the femur now to get access. Do you have a schnidt? Yep, good. Now take it out. We got good bone. Save that. Come proximal. Alright, we’re gonna trade. Okay, X-ray. Little more. Save that. Alright, let’s go to a lateral. Can you get your hand under there or something to lift like - X-ray. Good, come up to an AP. Good, alright.

So a lateral at the knee please. You really can’t tell the depth of the nail except at the lateral, so I think it’s important that you always check this. So that measures 300 exactly. So if we do 300, it would look like this. X-ray. That’s probably not enough room, so let’s do a 280. So 280 by 9, I think. So first reamer is an 8-5. Now this may - this reamer may be too big. I’m just - she’s got a very small canal. X-ray. Alright, that’s fine. Alright, hold on. Let’s switch for one second. I’m a just get - can I get - can I get some towels, please? Like 3 or 4 towels? So let’s - can we put this under the apex of the fracture there? Good - and then I’m going to pull like this. X-ray. X-ray. X-ray. Yeah, so we’re going to use a 9. Yep. Now just don’t lose that guidewire. So next will be 9-5 and then 10, and that’s our last reamer. So you gotta - you just gotta know your nail systems and know when they - the interlock screw sizes change cuz - you know, you gotta keep that in mind. So the - a lot of times they’ll go up, and you know, if you have a small interlock screw, that’s gonna fatigue and fail sooner than...

Now for this particular - did you say 9? I’m sorry. For the - for the femoral nail, 9s go to 5, yeah. And - and to be honest, for this fracture pattern, it doesn’t really matter. This is a length stable thing. The interlock screws aren’t going to do anything. Good. First - and this is one we’ll be able to impact after we lock it distally and compress the fracture and then lock it proximally. It - it matters what side we’re doing, and we’re doing a right. So we just - the way I always think of it is that the bow has got to go that way, and so it has to go this way. But keep in mind the bow… Here we’re doing a retrograde, and so we want to make sure the bow of the femur matches. If you go this way, you can kind of reverse the bow. You don’t want to do that. It’ll break the femur that way. Alright, good. So just slide that right on. Try not to touch the metal too much. And then - oh, one thing here. I’m gonna change this.


So I like to put this right on the end here. So there are two places, and this one is kind of colinear. So when you’re hitting it, you’re hitting it straight down. You’re not hitting any kind of side - cattywampus type thing. And there’s no twisting or anything with this one. This one goes straight in. Straight in, right? Cuz you’re colinear with the axis of the femur - so you just pound that in. Yep. Good. X-ray.

Alright, let’s come to a lateral please. So that’s your perfect lateral, okay? So save that, and that’s really what’s gonna show you… X-ray there. Good. So that’s really the one that’s showing you that you’re countersunk, and I really like this thing to be at least 5 millimeters or more underneath the chondral surface because that thing is prominent and really hurts with patella flexion. Alright, so come up to an AP. Do you have a blue magic marker? Kind of connect those dots, okay?


Just cut right through. Cut. Good. So the iliotibial band is right here, so you just gotta - it will still fit? It will. It will be fine. You just gotta pop through there. Rrrrrr. Good. X-ray there. Nice. Drill, and now this drill should be calibrated. 4-2 for a 5-0 locker. Go through the nail. Good. Now, stop a second. X-ray there. Watch your hand. That’s measuring 70, so probably a 65 cuz - cuz this is a little bit off the bone. Actually - really? Oh, 62. Yep, go ahead. So that’s about down. X-ray there. You want to be a little bit careful cuz this can drive into the bone, so. That’s a pretty good bite. X. So that’s about it there. Go a little bit more. Good. So that’s one where, if you just power through, it’ll go right through that lateral cortex. X-ray. You do that internal rotation view. That shows you if you’re long on the medial side cuz the distal femur is shaped like a trapezoid. So you’re gonna see through here. From the AP, you can’t see it - but then you internally rotate, and you can. Alright - same thing. Second burst same as the first.

X-ray. 52. Is there a - an instance where you want to lock proximally first? Right now - you could probably think of a situation, but most of the time not. And that’s because to compress you can hit it from this side. Yeah, and you don’t want the nails to be in the knee joint. Yeah, exactly, and if you’re back-slapping the nail, then you’re - you’re gonna get closer to the knee joint. So this - it’s safer to hit it this way. Just suck that down. Come up more proximal. So that looks pretty well reduced, so let’s go to a lateral and just see what it looks there. And then we’ll let you - so that looks pretty good. Very nice. So come up to an AP. X-ray there. Save that. X-ray. A little more. Good. X-ray. X-ray. X-ray. Try that - there you go. Tap, tap. X-ray. Get AP? Can I get the Acorn? The drill - the shorter drill. No?

Okay and now, with the handle out, you can extend the knee. So now this can go away. Yep. X-ray there. Alright, I can’t do better than that for you. Save that. It’s perfect. Yep. If you make every step go perfectly, then the whole thing goes nice and smoothly. So - perfect X-ray where that circle is really nice and centered in your frame. Incision right over it, so it’s not - you’re not fighting the skin to get your drill bit in the right spot. Drill bit really perfect. Now - and the other thing is I think a lot of people make a mistake in making their holes too small. I’d make it twice that. And hold - hold your knife like - no, I’m saying, when you hold it that - driver? But we do. It’s hard to get much better than that with a femoral shaft fracture cuz there’s a little plastic deformation, so it doesn’t key in quite perfectly. Yeah, I think the - the subtroc fracture is - X-ray - not quite as mobile as I thought. It's not too bad, I mean, it's pulling apart when I pull. Yeah, that’s - that’s all - want more proximal? Talk it out.

Like that? No, nope. So that’s too far towards the far side. This is ever so slightly towards you. That’s what I mean by being perfect - like a lot of people do that. That’s eclipsing it. You don’t want to eclipse it. You want it right on the center. X-ray. Tiny bit, tiny bit. X-ray. There you go. That’s perfect. And so - that’s the nail. And so - so we just pop this off. X-ray there. We’ll just adjust a little bit. Just tap it. X-ray. There you go. X-ray.

So for a lot of femur fractures, rotation is an issue, but for this particular one, you can see it interdigitates nicely. So I’m not too worried. And then just clinically, one of the advantages of being supine and doing a retrograde nail is you get to see both legs, and you can see that this - the - they’re fairly symmetric. Now obviously, she’s got a fracture here and a fracture in the subtroc region. So it kind of makes it a little more difficult, but things look pretty good. We were saying it was good that she does not have any comminution there. Absolutely.

30s. Like 36. 36? 36. 34? 36. Is it measuring exactly 36? It’s measuring 34. Exactly? Yep. 36. So if you look at these screws, they have a long tap area, so you want them to stick out. K - that’s not going to get much bite. This is a special kind of screwdriver. It grabs onto the screw so you don’t lose it. And then you just have to undo that. You unscrew that, and that pops it off. Yeah. Just be gentle with it. Like, it's possible to lose that screw, and then it really sucks. Like - just like that. Man, these are hard. Yeah - the first few you do by yourself are kind of scary too cuz you’re like “woo - it’s right-” but, you know, the vessels and everything are pretty medial actually - pretty medial.

So now if you think you’re down, what I want to do is actually check a lateral cuz once you - it’s really - it’s easy to lose this thing. Let’s come to a lateral, please. X-ray there. That looks pretty good, but you’ve got to go a little further. Here I’m going to put it down. Screwdriver. Mallet. X-ray there. Whoops - that’s a little on the long side. Do you have the - the blue one? So you were right. You were right.

You okay? Yeah, she has hard bone. Yeah. Yeah, I saw it. Even drilling, I was like - pushing. X-ray. You see some of that bleeding is probably - we’re getting into the fracture hematoma because we’re pretty close. Okay, so do the same thing. I think just take off two. I think 30 - either just - I think 34 I think like you said. I mean, you definitely want that thing to stick out, so. And that’s not going to bother her there. X-ray there. Yep, I like that. That’s good. Save that for us. Come up a little bit more proximal. That’s nice. Save that. Now come down to the knee please - south. And then come to a full lateral. Good. Sorry, maybe a little bit north from there. Save that.

So now you can see you’re countersunk, your starting point was really nice, and we’ve got a nice alignment. Alright, let’s come up to an AP. And her leg, you know, was really floppy before, and now it’s behaving like a femur, so. I don’t think she even needs traction. The proximal fracture is not really displaced, so. So no traction? No traction, no. Let’s come up proximal. I’ll take a picture of the hip, and I’ll see if I pull on it, if it helps the acetabulum, and if it does, we will. Save that. Little bit more proximal. X-ray there. Save that. Come up a little bit more proximal. Let’s get that out of the way. It didn’t really change the acetabulum, so. X-ray there. That’s reduced good. X-ray.