Comparison of Locking Versus Nonlocking Plates for Distal Fibula Fractures

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Locking plates might offer a biomechanical fixation advantage for distal fibula fractures with comminution or osteoporotic bone. In January 2011, our unit introduced a bone-specific locking plate for the distal fibula. The aim of the present study was to compare it against more conventional plating system implants for lateral malleolar fixation in terms of outcomes, crude costs, and complications. We retrospectively reviewed a consecutive cohort of patients with closed ankle fractures who presented within a 24-month period. The clinical and radiographic outcomes were compared among conventional plating using a one-third semitubular plate, a 3.5-mm limited-contact dynamic compression plate, and a 2.7-mm/3.5-mm locking compression distal fibula plate. A total of 145 patients with ankle fractures underwent surgical fixation: 87 (60.0%) with the semitubular plate, 22 (15.2%) with the limited-contact dynamic compression plate, and 36 (24.8%) with the locking compression distal fibula plate. A greater proportion of patients with established osteoporosis or osteoporosis risk factors were in the locking compression distal fibula plate group (27.8% versus 2.3% and 0%). Four patients (2.8%) required washout for infection. No significant differences were found between the sex distribution within the 3 groups (p = .432). No significant difference was found in the complication rate (p = .914) or the reoperation rate (p = .291) among the 3 groups. Although costing >6 times more than a standard fibula fixation construct (implant cost), bone-specific locking compression distal fibula plates add to the portfolio of implants available, especially for unstable fractures with poor bone quality.Level of Clinical Evidence: 3

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