Comparing different surgical techniques for addressing the posterior malleolus in supination external rotation ankle fractures and the need for syndesmotic screw fixation
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Trimalleolar ankle fractures are unstable injuries with possible syndesmotic disruption. Recent data have described inherent morbidity associated with screw fixation of the syndesmosis, including the potential for malreduction, hardware irritation, and post-traumatic arthritis. The posterior malleolus is an important soft tissue attachment for the posterior inferior syndesmosis ligament. We hypothesized that fixation of a sizable posterior malleolar (PM) fracture in supination external rotation type IV (SER IV) ankle fractures would act to stabilize the syndesmosis and minimize or eliminate the need for trans-syndesmotic fixation. A retrospective review of trimalleolar ankle fractures surgically treated from October 2006 to April of 2011 was performed. A total of 143 trimalleolar ankle fractures were identified, and 97 were classified as SER IV. Of the 97 patients, 74 (76.3%) had a sizable PM fragment. Syndesmotic fixation was required in 7 of 34 (20%) and 27 of 40 (68%), respectively, when the PM was fixed versus not fixed (p = .0002). When the PM was indirectly reduced using an anterior to posterior screw, 7 of 15 patients (46.7%) required syndesmotic fixation compared with none of 19 patients when the PM fragment was fixated with direct posterior lateral plate fixation (p = .0012). Fixation of the PM fracture in SER IV ankle fractures can restore syndesmotic stability and, thus, lower the rate of syndesmotic fixation. We found that fixation of a sizable PM fragment in SER IV or equivalent injuries through posterolateral plating can eliminate the need for syndesmotic screw fixation.
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