Examination of the pathologic anatomy of ankle fractures

James D. Michelson, Donna Magid, Derek R. Ney, Elliot K. Fishman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

A prospective study of the translational and rotational displacement of the lateral malleolus in ankle fractures was carried out utilizing roentgenographic techniques. Twenty-six ankle fractures in 25 patients were studied using both routine plain films and CT scanning with two- and three-dimensional multiplanar reconstruction. Eighty-one percent were Lauge-Hansen supination-external rotation type injuries. Overall, 21 fractures did not involve the medial malleolus. Initial talar shift was ≤2 mm in 15 fractures. Although all patients exhibited external rotation deformities of the lateral malleolus on plain films, only one fracture was found to possess any degree of external rotation relative to the talus. The proximal fibula was seen on CT scans to have increased internal rotation with respect to the tibia in 19 cases. One patient had a slightly externally rotated proximal fibula; the remainder appeared normally aligned. The displacements measured by the CT scans at the talofibular articulation were compared with the standard plain film measurements. The displacements at the distal lateral malleolus were consistently overestimated by the plain roentgenograms, presumably because the capsular and ligamentous attachments to the distal fibula limit malleolar displacement. The talocrural angle, determined on both plain films and CT scans, was also not found to be a sensitive measure of fibular shortening nor of the severity of the fracture. The results of this study suggest that, in an isolated lateral malleolar ankle fracture, the apparent external rotation of the fracture fragment is relative only to the proximal fibula and is not associated with derangement of the talofibular articulation. Based on these mechanical considerations, surgical intervention for such fractures may not be necessary. This hypothesis is consistent with previous long-term clinical studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-70
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Volume32
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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