[Treatment of calcaneal fractures using the medial approach for open reduction]

L Vanĕcek, T Malkus, P Dungl
Acta Chirurgiae Orthopaedicae et Traumatologiae Cechoslovaca 2003, 70 (2): 100-7

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: A comprehensive evaluation of the treatment of calcaneal fractures by open reduction is presented. The long-term results are compared with the relevant literature data.

MATERIAL: In the period from 1987 to 2000, 60 displaced fractures of the calcaneus were treated in 51 patients. Of these, 49 patients suffered the fracture by falling from a height, which is generally the most common cause. Only two patients were injured during sports activities. Thirty eight injuries were classified as fractures of the joint depression type and 22 as fractures of the tongue type. The patients had surgery on the day they sustained the injury or after edema had subsided, if this was present on admission. The interval between injury and surgery was 4.6 days on the average. The fracture was fixed with Kirschner's wires (Kw) in 53 cases, a Kirshcner's wire and a hook-nail in five cases and a Kirchner's wire and a spongious screw in two patients. In May 2001, 23 patients were available for evaluation after a follow-up period of 6 to 120 months.

METHODS: The patients underwent clinical and radiographic examination and filled a questionnaire. The fracture type was defined on the basis of the Essex-Lopresti classification system. Outcomes were scored according to the Creighton-Nebraska Health Foundation rating system that assessed pain, range of motion, edema, a change in shoe size, patient's activity after therapy termination and return to a job.

RESULTS: In May 2001, 23 patients, with a follow-up ranging from 6 to 120 months were checked up. Of them, 20 (86.9%) had neither clinical manifestations nor subjective complaints. Three patients retired because of persisting complaints, two with disability pensions and one with an old-age pension. A total of 19 patients were evaluated by the Creighton-Nebraska Health Foundation rating system. The average score was 90.8 points. The results were excellent in 15 patients, good in three and poor in one patient. The complications reported by the patients included superficial infection in two, thromboembolic disease in one, and hypesthesia on the medial side of the leg in two patients.

DISCUSSION: The optimal mode of treatment in dislocated intra-articular fractures of the calcaneus still remains open to discussion. Should conservative or surgical therapy be used? In agreement with others, the authors preferred early surgical intervention. This facilitated a better congruence of the dorsal articular surface. The average remaining dislocation of the articular surface was 1.1 mm in surgically treated as against the average of 4.7 mm in conservatively treated patients. It was possible to restore the length, height and width, and the correct axial position of the calcaneus by this surgery from the medial approach. However, in indicated cases, the procedure required an additional intervention from the lateral approach through a mini-incision. As reported in the literature, other authors have achieved comparable, or even better results but on the basis of either the lateral or the plantar approach. The application of primary spongioplasty or primary arthrodesis of the subtalar joint is discussed. The advantages of preoperative examination by computer-assisted tomography are emphasized.

CONCLUSIONS: Good outcomes of the treatment of intra-articular, dislocated calcaneal fractures depend on a correct shape and position of the dorsal articular surface of the calcaneus. The open reduction procedure from the medial approach based on the principles of McReynold's technique allowed us to accomplish both these criteria.

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