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Failure of fixation of trochanteric femur fractures: Clinical recommendations for avoiding Z-effect and reverse Z-effect type complications

Author(s): Pires Robinson | Santana Egídio | Santos Leandro | Giordano Vincenzo | Balbachevsky Daniel | dos Reis Fernando

Journal: Patient Safety in Surgery
ISSN 1754-9493

Volume: 5;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 17;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Abstract Background Z-effect and reverse Z-effect are complications that arise from the surgical treatment of pertrochanteric fractures of the femur with proximal femoral nails (PFN) comprising two interlocking head screws. Such complications are induced by the migration of screws in opposite directions, which may lead to failure of the osteosynthesis. Findings The paper describes three cases of pertrochanteric fractures that were treated with PFN with two interlocking screws that evolved to either Z-effect or reverse Z-effect. Literature-based explanations for this phenomenon are provided together with recommendations of how to avoid such complications. Conclusions Although intramedullary fixation is an established method of treatment of femoral intertrochanteric and subtrochanteric fractures, the evolution of the procedure may include complications associated with the migration of the interlocking head screws. The occurrence of Z-effect and reverse Z-effect has not been completely elucidated, but the main causes of such complications are probably fracture fixation in varus position, severe medial comminution, inappropriate entry point of the nail and poor bone quality.
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