Surgical Versus Nonsurgical Treatment of Displaced Intra-Articular Calcaneal Fracture: A Meta-Analysis of Current Evidence Base

Int Orthop. 2012 Aug;36(8):1615-22. doi: 10.1007/s00264-012-1563-0. Epub 2012 May 11.


Purpose: Controversy still surrounds the optimal treatment for patients with displaced intra-articular calcaneal fractures (DIACF). An up-to-date meta-analysis was performed to evaluate clinical effectiveness of surgical treatment for DIACF compared with nonsurgical treatment.

Methods: We systematically searched four electronic databases (Medline, BIOSIS, Cochrane library and Google Scholar) to identify randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and clinical controlled trials (CCTs) in which surgical treatment was compared with nonsurgical treatment of DIACF from 1980 to 2011. Trial quality was assessed using the modified Jadad scale and effective data were pooled for meta-analysis.

Results: Ten studies (six RCTs and four CCTs) with a total of 891 participants were screened. Results showed that surgical treatment was superior to nonsurgical treatment in better recovery of the Böhler angle (P < 0.0001), more stable calcaneal height (P = 0.0009) and width (P < 0.00001). Moreover, fewer surgically treated patients needed increased shoe size (P = 0.0004) and more were able to resume pre-injury work (P = 0.004) than the nonsurgical patients. No significant difference was identified between the two methods regarding the incidence of residual pain (P = 0.49). However, operative management was associated with a higher risk of complications (P = 0.008).

Conclusions: Although surgical repair may increase the complication probability, it is the price that has to be paid for better reconstruction of the calcaneus and better functional results. Taken as a whole, surgery is probably the optimal choice in DIACF treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcaneus / injuries*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Fractures, Bone / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Orthopedic Procedures*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Treatment Outcome