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Clinical and radiological mid- to long-term results after direct fixation of posterior malleolar fractures through a posterolateral approach

Lizzy Weigelt, Julian Hasler, Andreas Flury, Dimitris Dimitriou, Naeder Helmy
Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery 2020 January 25
31982927

BACKGROUND: Direct fixation of posterior malleolar fractures has been shown to lead to higher accuracy of fracture reduction compared to an indirect anterior to posterior fixation but lacks long-term clinical results. This study shows the mid- to long-term clinical and radiological outcome after direct fixation of the posterior malleolus through a posterolateral approach.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Thirty-six patients with an ankle fracture including a posterior malleolar fragment (23 × AO-44C, 12 × AO-44B, 1 × unclassifiable) treated with direct fixation of the fragment through a posterolateral approach were retrospectively evaluated. There were 24 females (67%) with a mean age of 63 (range 34-80) years and a BMI of 28 (range 19-41) kg/m2 at the time of surgery. An initial fracture-dislocation was seen in 67%. The clinical outcome was assessed with the Visual Analog Scale (VAS, 0-10 points) and the American Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS, 0-100 points) score. Posttraumatic osteoarthritis was recorded with the Van Dijk Classification (grade 0-III). Subgroup analyses of patient- and fracture-associated risk factors (age, BMI, smoking, fracture-dislocation, postoperative articular step-off) were assessed to reveal possible negative prognostic predictors.

RESULTS: After a mean follow-up of 7.9 (range 3-12) years, the median VAS was 1 (IQR 0-2) point, and the median AOFAS score was 96 (IQR 88-100) points. Ankle range of motion measurements showed a significant, but clinically irrelevant, difference in plantar- and dorsiflexion between the affected and unaffected ankle. 92% of the patients were very satisfied or satisfied with the postoperative course. 89% had no preoperative signs of ankle osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis progression was seen in 72%, with 50% showing grade II or III osteoarthritis at the final follow-up. No significant negative prognostic factors for a worse clinical outcome could be detected.

CONCLUSION: Direct fixation of posterior malleolar fractures through a posterolateral approach showed good clinical mid- to long-term results with a high satisfaction rate but substantial development of posttraumatic ankle osteoarthritis. Further studies should include CT analysis of the preoperative fracture morphology and even, perhaps, the postoperative reduction accuracy to evaluate the benefit of posterior malleolar fracture reduction in preventing ankle osteoarthritis in the long term.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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