Surgical treatment of displaced intra-articular calcaneal fractures: is bone grafting necessary?

A K Singh, K Vinay
Journal of Orthopaedics and Traumatology: Official Journal of the Italian Society of Orthopaedics and Traumatology 2013, 14 (4): 299-305

BACKGROUND: The aim of this retrospective study was to determine the need for bone grafting in the surgical treatment of displaced intra-articular calcaneal fractures. We reviewed 390 cases of displaced intra-articular calcaneal fractures treated with plate osteosynthesis with or without autologous iliac bone grafting, and compared outcomes and complications related to fracture stabilization.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Three hundred ninety patients with displaced intra-articular calcaneal fractures that were treated with plate osteosynthesis from December 2002 to December 2010 were reviewed. Two hundred two patients (group A) were treated by osteosynthesis with autologous bone grafting, and 188 patients (group B) were treated by osteosynthesis without bone grafting. One hundred eighty-one patients with an AO type 73-C1 fracture (Sanders type II), 182 patients with an AO type 73-C2 fracture (Sanders type III), and 27 patients with an AO type 73-C3 fracture (Sanders type IV) were included in this study. Bohler's angle, the crucial angle of Gissane, and calcaneal height in the immediate postoperative period and at the 2-year follow-up were compared. Any change in the subtalar joint status was documented and analyzed. The final outcomes of all patients were evaluated by the AOFAS Ankle-Hindfoot Scale and compared in both groups.

RESULTS: The mean full weight-bearing time in group A (with bone grafting) was significantly lower (median 6.2 months, range 2.8-9.2 months) than that in group B (without bone grafting; median 9.8 months, range 6.8-12.2 months). The immediate-postoperative Bohler's angle and that at the 2-year follow-up were significantly higher in group A. The loss of Bohler's angle after 2 years was significantly lower in group A (mean 3.5°; 95 % CI 0.8°-6.2°) than in group B (mean 6.2°; 95 % CI 1.0°-11.2°). The average change in the crucial angle and the average change in calcaneal height were not statistically significant for either group. The infection rate in the bone grafting group was higher, though statistically insignificantly so, than in the nongrafting group (8.3 vs. 6.3 %). No significant difference was found between the groups in terms of the rates of good reduction, postoperative osteoarthritis, and subtalar fusion. Regarding the efficacy outcomes, the mean AOFAS score was lower (mean 76.4 points; 95 % CI 65.8-82.9 points) in group A than in group B (mean, 81.6 points; 95 % CI, 72.3-88.8 points), but this difference was not significant (p > 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Bohler's angle showed improved restoration and the patients returned to full weight-bearing earlier when bone grafting was used in the treatment of intra-articular calcaneal fracture. However, the functional outcomes and complication rates of both groups were similar.

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