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Femoral lengthening with intramedullary nails can create alterations in the mechanical axis of the limb. This is based on the relationship of the anatomic femur axis to the mechanical femur axis, which is typically 5–9 degrees valgus. We developed trigonometric formulas to calculate the predicted change, using the lengths of the tibia, femur, and whole limb; the amount of lengthening; and the angle between the anatomic and the mechanical axis of the femur. We recognized three patterns depending on whether the overall limb mechanical axis is lateral (valgus), medial (varus), or straight through the center of the knee. The varus and valgus patterns lead to similar formulas. When the mechanical axis goes directly through the center of the knee joint, the formula simplifies. These formulas could be incorporated into digital radiographic programs to predict the change in mechanical axis deviation that will develop from lengthening along the anatomic femur axis with an intramedullary lengthening nail.
Rolf D. Burghardt (Corresponding Author) is with the Abteilung für Kinderorthopädie, Altonaer Kinderkrankenhaus, Hamburg, Germany. John E. Herzenberg is with the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Baltimore, MD. Manfred H. Burghardt, independent scholar, is located in Gilching, Germany.