The Role of Computed Tomography in Surgical Planning for Trimalleolar Fracture. A Survey of OTA Members

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Does the additional information provided by computed tomography (CT) alter surgeons' treatment plans for trimalleolar ankle fracture?




Electronic survey.


Members of the OTA.


Compare management of trimalleolar ankle fracture before and after CT.

Main Outcome Measurements:

Compare types of fixation used, indication for fixation, and approach need for fixation before and after CT.


Overall, OTA members' operative technique changed in 430 of the 1710 (25.1%) cases after review of the CT images. Of the 430 observations in which the operative technique was altered, the surgeon had initially stated that they would not have requested a CT in 51.2% incidences. When analyzing if CT affected whether or not operative fixation was indicated, a total of 16.3% responses changed. Surgeons were significantly more likely to change from no fixation to fixation (11.5%) than vice versa (4.8%) after reviewing CT imaging. A total of 17.8% of responses changed operative approach after reviewing the CT; 11.7% changed to open reduction internal fixation, whereas 6.1% changed away from open reduction internal fixation.


A consensus on the ideal treatment of trimalleolar fractures remains elusive, evidenced by a high variation in treatment preference, both before and after CT review. Our results demonstrate with the additional information delineated on CT, a surgeons' operative plan, technique, and approach often change. With greater than 25% of respondents changing their treatment strategy after seeing CT imaging, radiographs alone limited surgeon understanding of fracture pattern. Because of difficulty understanding the posterior fracture fragment, we recommend preoperative CT on all trimalleolar fractures.

Level of Evidence:

Diagnostic Level V. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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