Minimally invasive technique versus an extensile lateral approach for intra-articular calcaneal fractures

Alex J Kline, Robert B Anderson, W Hodges Davis, Carroll P Jones, Bruce E Cohen
Foot & Ankle International 2013, 34 (6): 773-80

BACKGROUND: The optimal method for treating intra-articular fractures of the calcaneus remains controversial. Extensile approaches allow excellent fracture exposure, but high rates of wound complications are seen. Newer minimally invasive techniques for calcaneus fracture fixation offer a potentially lower wound complication rate, but long-term clinical results are not available. The aim of this study was to compare the outcomes of intra-articular calcaneus fractures treated with open reduction and internal fixation via an extensile approach versus those with a minimally invasive sinus tarsi approach.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective review of all intra-articular calcaneal fractures treated operatively between October 2005 and December 2008. A total of 112 fractures were found that met our inclusion criteria; 79 were treated with an extensile lateral approach and 33 via a minimally invasive approach based on surgeon preference. Chart and radiographic results were thoroughly reviewed on all 112 fractures, specifically for wound healing complications and the need for further surgeries within the study period. Additionally, all patients were contacted and asked to return for a research visit that included radiography, clinical examination, and quality of life questionnaires (Short Form 36 [SF-36], foot function index [FFI], visual analog scale [VAS] pain). A total of 47 of 112 (42%) patients returned for a research visit (31 extensile, 16 minimally invasive).

RESULTS: The 2 groups were comparable with regard to demographics (age, follow-up, male to female ratio, tobacco use, diabetes, workers' compensation status). In the extensile group, 53% of fractures were Sanders II and 47% were Sanders III, whereas in the minimally invasive group 61% were Sanders II and 39% were Sanders III. The overall wound complication rate was 29% in the extensile group (9% required operative intervention) versus 6% in the minimally invasive group (P = .005) (none required operative intervention). Overall, 20% of the extensile group required a secondary surgery within the study period versus 2% in the minimally invasive group (P = .007). In the group of patients who returned for research visits, the average FFI total score was 31 in the extensile group versus 22 in the minimally invasive group (P = .21). The average VAS pain score with activity was 36 in the extensile group versus 31 in the minimally invasive group (P = .48). Overall, 84% of patients in the extensile group were satisfied with their result versus 94% in the minimally invasive group (P = .32). Both groups had 100% union rates, and no differences were noted in the final postoperative Bohler's angle and angle of Gissane.

CONCLUSION: Clinical results were similar between calcaneal fractures treated with an extensile approach and those treated with a minimally invasive approach. However, the minimally invasive approach had a significantly lower incidence of wound complications and secondary surgeries. The minimally invasive approach was a valuable method for the treatment of intra-articular calcaneal fractures, with low complication rates and results comparable to those treated with an extensile approach.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level III, retrospective comparative case series.

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