Diagnosing syndesmotic instability accompanying Weber B ankle fractures can be challenging. This study aimed to evaluate the ability of weight-bearing computed tomography (WBCT) to diagnose syndesmotic instability using one-dimensional, two-dimensional, and three-dimensional measurements among patients with unilateral Weber B lateral malleolar fractures with symmetric medial clear space (MCS) on initial radiographs and yet demonstrated operatively confirmed syndesmotic instability.
The treatment group included 23 patients with unilateral surgically confirmed syndesmotic instability accompanying Weber B ankle fractures who underwent preoperative bilateral foot and ankle WBCT. The control group included 18 unilateral Weber B ankle fracture patients without syndesmotic instability who underwent bilateral WBCT. Measurements on WBCT images included the following: (1) syndesmotic area, (2) anterior, middle, and posterior distal tibiofibular distance, (3) fibular rotation, (4) distance from fibular tip to plafond, (5) fibular fracture displacement, and (6) MCS distance. In addition, the following volumetric measurements were calculated: (1) syndesmotic joint volume from the tibial plafond extending to 3 and 5 cm proximally, (2) MCS volume, and (3) lateral clear space volume. Area under the receiver operating characteristic curve analysis and Delong test were used, and optimal cutoff values to distinguish between stable and unstable syndesmosis were determined using Youden J statistic.
Among patients with unilateral syndesmotic instability and Weber B ankle fractures, all WBCT measurements were significantly greater than uninjured side, except MCS distance, syndesmotic area, and anterior and posterior tibiofibular distances (P values <0.001 to 0.004). Moreover, syndesmosis volume spanning from the tibial plafond to 5 cm proximally had the largest area under the curve of 0.96 (sensitivity = 90%; specificity = 95%), followed by syndesmosis volume up to 3 cm proximally (area under the curve = 0.91; sensitivity = 90%; specificity = 90%). Except for MCS volume and distal fibular tip to tibial plafond distance, the control group showed no side-to-side difference in any parameter.
Syndesmotic joint volume measurements seem to be best suited to diagnose syndesmotic instability among patients with Weber B ankle fractures, compared with other two-dimensional and three-dimensional WBCT measurements.
Level of Evidence:
Level III, comparative diagnostic study