Pilon Fractures: Treatment With Combined Internal and External Fixation

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Summary:The purpose of this study was to prospectively evaluate the use of limited internal fixation and the application of a hybrid external fixator (tensioned wires distally and 5.0 mm half pins proximally attached to a semicircular frame without crossing the ankle joint) in the treatment of severe distal tibia fractures. This technique involves accurate reduction and fixation of the intraarticular component through an incision based over a fracture site followed by stabilization of the metaphysis with the hybrid external fixator. We studied 26 patients 15–55 years of age who were followed for 8–36 months. All fractures were within 5 cm of the joint. Seventeen fractures were intraarticular, nine extraarticular, and six open. Eleven patients required bone grafting. The average time to healing was 4.2 months. Using clinically based criteria, there were 81% good and excellent results overall, 70.5% for the 17 intraarticular fractures, and 69% for Ruedi type III fractures. Complications included one superficial and one deep infection, one 10° varus malunion, and three pin tract infections. This method yielded results comparable with previous studies while reducing the amount of soft tissue dissection necessary for the placement of large plates. Soft tissue complications were infrequent and the goals of early motion and fracture stability were not sacrificed.

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