To assess the wound complications and reductions achieved in a cohort of patients with pilon fractures who were treated using a novel lateral approach.
Two level 1 trauma centers affiliated with academic institutions.
All 44 fractures (in 43 patients) treated by the senior authors with open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) using the lateral approach as the primary approach were included.
Data regarding medical comorbidities, mechanism of injury, soft-tissue injury sustained during the injury, treatment, wound healing, and secondary surgeries were recorded. Fractures were classified using the AO/OTA system with most being type C3. Eighteen fractures were open injuries (10 type 3). Fracture reductions were scored using the criteria of Teeny and Wiss.
Main Outcome Measurements:
Quality of articular reduction and soft-tissue healing.
An anatomic or good fracture reduction was achieved in 41 fractures (93%), and a fair reduction was obtained in 3 fractures. Two patients were successfully treated for deep infection (4.5%), and 2 patients developed a wound dehiscence (4.5%). There were no amputations. Twelve patients underwent secondary surgeries (27%). Five of these were for symptomatic screw removal (related to the fibular hardware in all cases), and the sixth was for planned removal of a syndesmotic-type screw (13.6%). Four were for nonunion, representing 9% of all cases. The remaining secondary surgeries (2 cases) were performed for infection. Overall, 13.6% of patients underwent a secondary surgical procedure to address nonunion or infection.
When applied in a staged fashion, the lateral surgical approach for pilon fractures provides excellent protection of the soft-tissue envelopes by creating thick flaps while allowing excellent visualization for reconstruction of the anterior and lateral distal tibia.