Complications associated with distraction osteogenesis for the correction of brachymetatarsia: a review of five procedures

J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2007 May-Jun;97(3):189-94. doi: 10.7547/0970189.


Background: Congenital brachymetatarsia is often treated with callus distraction. This technique is associated with a variety of complications. We investigated complications encountered in treatment of brachymetatarsia in four female patients and reviewed adjunctive procedures performed to treat these complications.

Methods: We reviewed five distraction osteogenesis procedures performed in four female patients with congenital shortening of the fourth metatarsal over a 3-year period. Serial radiographs were obtained weekly until bone consolidation was achieved, at which time the external fixator was removed. Follow-up ranged from 5 to 10 months.

Results: Three patients (four metatarsals) were satisfied with the cosmetic and functional outcomes of their procedure. One patient was dissatisfied with the cosmetic result owing to a short digit from a short proximal phalanx but was completely functional and resumed all of her normal activities. Complications associated with callus distraction were decreased range of motion and stiffness at the metatarsophalangeal joint, flexion deformity of the digit, angulation of the metatarsal, prolonged distraction time due to pain, fracture of the bone callus, pin-site infection, and an undesirable cosmetic appearance due to a short proximal phalanx. Adjunctive procedures were needed in some of these cases and yielded good results.

Conclusions: Callus distraction is an effective treatment for congenital shortening of the fourth metatarsal, but the procedure is associated with a number of complications. Because most patients proceed with surgery for cosmetic reasons, it is important to present the possible complications and the adjunctive surgical procedures that may be necessary for a desirable outcome.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Foot Deformities, Congenital / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Metatarsal Bones / abnormalities
  • Metatarsal Bones / physiopathology
  • Metatarsal Bones / surgery*
  • Osteogenesis, Distraction / adverse effects
  • Osteogenesis, Distraction / methods*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology*
  • Range of Motion, Articular