Neglected Tibial Pilon Fractures: Can Arthrodesis Be Avoided?

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Objectives:To evaluate the outcomes of neglected pilon fractures treated by the Ilizarov fixator and to determine whether this technique was successful in avoiding an ankle arthrodesis.Design:Retrospective case series.Setting:Level I university trauma center.Patients:Between January 2003 and March 2015, 18 patients (mean age of 42.17 years) with an untreated pilon fracture with late presentation (>1 month) were evaluated. Six patients were women and 12 were men. The mean duration from trauma to management was 11.17 weeks (range: 7–15). All fractures were OTA/AO 43 type C. Four cases were open fractures.Intervention:Closed fracture reduction, correction of deformity, and restoration of alignment by the Ilizarov fixator.Main Outcome Measurements:The radiographs were evaluated for tibial alignment, quality of reduction, and development of arthrosis. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) Ankle-Hindfoot Scale was used for functional assessment.Results:The follow-up period ranged from 18 to 168 months (mean; 38.00). The quality of reduction was excellent in 2 cases, satisfactory in 13 cases, and poor in 3 cases. The external fixator period averaged 29.06 weeks (range: 6.1–7.5 months). All fractures healed without deep infection. Ankle dorsiflexion and plantar flexion averaged 8.67 and 25.67 degrees, respectively, in 15 cases. Arthrodesis was performed for the remaining 3 cases. The mean AOFAS Ankle-Hindfoot score was 82.67. One case had mild anterior translation, and another 1 had a procurvatum of 5 degrees. Arthrosis developed in 6 ankles.Conclusions:A satisfactory outcome was achieved after management by the Ilizarov fixator while avoiding arthrodesis in most cases of this series of neglected pilon fractures.Level of Evidence:Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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