A practical ‘safe zone' technique for lag screw fixation of the fibula

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IntroductionDuring ankle fracture fixation, iatrogenic trauma to retro fibula structures can result in morbidity and reoperation. We describe a safe zone for lag screw insertion.Materials and methodsThis study was completed in three sections. We identified the average entry and exit points for the lag screw using 45 Weber B ankle fractures identified from our trauma database. We then analysed 26 sequentially presented ankle magnetic resonance images, concentrating on axial sections at 4, 8, 12 and 16 mm above the ankle joint. Finally, we used 63 sequentially performed magnetic resonance scans to confirm the safe zone from these consistent structures.ResultsThe typical lag screw exit point was 14.2 mm above the ankle joint (95% confidence Interval 11.3-17.1 mm). A safe zone trajectory occurred between 31 and 45 degrees taken from the anterior aspect of the flat fibular surface at this level. The obvious palpable landmark to direct screw trajectory and avoid ‘at risk' structures was found to be the medial edge of the Achilles tendon. Our final dataset confirmed in 63 scans, the medial aspect of the Achilles tendon to be a consistent safe zone with a minimum distance of at risk structures of 4 mm.ConclusionThis simple method of directing the fibula lag screw towards the palpable medial edge of the Achilles tendon is practical, easy to teach and directs the screw on a safe trajectory away from the most commonly injured structures around the back of the fibula.

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