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[Long-term results of calcaneal fracture treatment by open reduction and internal fixation using a calcaneal locking compression plate from an extended lateral approach].

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: To report on the surgical treatment of intra-articular calcaneal fractures by open reduction and internal fixation with a calcaneal locking compression plate (LCP) from an extended lateral approach, and to retrospectively analyze the mid-term results in a group of patients treated by this technique.

MATERIAL: In the period from August 2005 till March 2007, a total of 49 patients with 61 calcaneal fractures were treated. Of these, 11 (18 %) were treated conservatively. Reduction combined with Kirschner-wire fixation was used in four fractures (6.6 %). Open reduction with internal calcaneal LCP fixation (ORIF- calcaneal LCP) from an extended lateral approach was carried out to treat 46 fractures (75.4 %) in 38 patients. The group evaluated here comprised 29 patients with 33 calcaneal fractures treated by ORIF-calcaneal LCP at a follow-up longer than 6 months. The fractures were classified on the basis of computer tomography (CT) findings as Sanders types I to IV. The group had two woman (6.9 %) and 27 men (93.1 %) with an average age of 34.2 years (range, 19-55 years). In 11 fractures (33.3 %), the primary treatment included filling a central cancellous bone defect area. Calcium phosphate bone substitute material (resorbable ChronOS) was used in nine cases (27.3 %), a self-solidifying hydroxyapatite implant was injected in two (6.1 %) cases (X3 Wright and Norian SRS, respectively), and a bone allograft was implanted in one case (3 %).

METHODS: Indicated for surgery were patients with an intra-articular calcaneal fracture, Sanders type II or type III, with articular surface displacement by more than 1 mm. Contraindications included age over sixty years, poor cooperation, smoking habits, peripheral vascular disease or skin infection. Surgery was performed only after oedema had resolved. The aim of our treatment was to achieve anatomical reconstruction of all articular surfaces, to restore the height, length, width and axis of the heel bone, to carry out primary stable osteosynthesis, and to enable the patient to begin rehabilitation with early mobilization. A passive rehabilitation usually started on the first post-operative day, and full weight-bearing of the extremity was allowed not earlier than 3 months post-operatively. Regular check-ups were at 6 weeks, 3, 6 and 12 months and then every year. The mid-term results were evaluated by the system of Rowe et al., scoring rest pain, possibility of return to preinjury jobs, use of walking aids, restriction of physical activity and limping. RESULTS The most frequent cause of injury was a fall or jump from height; this was recorded in 27 patients (93.1 %). An open fracture was diagnosed on two occasions (6.9 %). Bilateral calcaneal fractures were found in six patients (20.7 %); four (13.8 %) were treated by bilateral ORIF-calcaneal LPC and two (6.9 %) underwent closed reduction on one and Kirschnerwire transfixation on the other extremity. A combined injury to the musculoskeletal system was diagnosed in 11 patients (38 %), in whom four (13.8 %) had a tibial pylon fracture of the contralateral limb and four (13.8 %) had a thoracolumbar spine fracture. The surgical procedure was performed on average within 11.7 days of injury, and the average hospital stay was 18.2 days (range, 6 to 18 days). Early post-operative complications were recorded in six patients (20.7 %). Wound dehiscence was found in two (6.9 %), necrosis of wound edges in two (6.9 %), and early superficial infection responding to antibiotic therapy also in two patients (6.9 %). Deep infection, non-union or post-operative compartment syndrome were not recorded. Excellent Rowe scores were achieved in 10 patients (34.5 %), good in 15 (51.7 %) and satisfactory in two (6.9 %). Only two patients (6.9 %) reported poor outcome.

DISCUSSION: The methods of classification and treatment of calcaneal fractures continue to be a frequently discussed topic. The technique of ORIF-calcaneal LCP from an extended lateral approach has recently been preferred for patients with displaced Sanders type II or III calcaneal fractures. In agreement with other literature references, this approach allowed us to observe the fracture, to reduce both the subtalar and calcaneocuboid articulations, to stabilize the fracture by internal fixation and to begin early rehabilitation. Because of the risk of early complications, the timing of surgery and a thorough consideration of indications and contraindications are of principal importance.We agree with other authors that filling calcaneal bone defects is not necessary. Pre- and post-operative CT scans are necessary. In accordance with literature data, fractures developing compartment syndrome are indicated for urgent fasciotomy and ORIF-calcaneal LCP should be postponed. In patients with multiple trauma and also in those with open calcaneal fractures, a temporary stabilization with an external fixator medially is performed first, and then converted to a second-stage, ORIF-LCP procedure.

CONCLUSIONS: The surgical treatment of displaced intra-articular fractures that involves open reduction from an extended lateral approach and internal fixation with a calcaneal LCP shows very good preliminary results. A CT examination is required for the diagnosis and classification of fractures and a correct indication for surgery. Good timing is of principal importance. An urgent surgical intervention is necessary in open fractures or in those in which soft tissues are squashed by bone fragments. In the other fractures, surgery is carried out after oedema subsidence. Foot compartment syndrome is a serious complication of calcaneal fractures and urgent fasciotomy is the only adequate therapy. Full weight-bearing of the operated extremity depends on the rate of bone healing; it is usually allowed at 3 months after surgery.

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