[Fractures of the tibial pilon. Long-term retrospective study of 51 fractures treated with open reduction and osteosynthesis]

Rev Chir Orthop Reparatrice Appar Mot. 1998 Apr;84(2):180-8.
[Article in French]


Purpose of the study: Fracture of the tibial pilon is a rare injury and its treatment remains difficult. The aim of this study was to report the complications and long term results of internal fixation using a technique which respects soft tissues and in which little material was used.

Material: From 1985 to 1990, 48 patients with 51 fractures of the tibial pilon were treated by open reduction and internal fixation. All patients were submitted to a clinical and radiological review.

Methods: Both the Rüedi/Allgöwer and the AO-classification were used and determined by standard X-rays. Surgical procedure was performed with a 2 or 3 1/3 tube AO-plates and the peroneus was always fixed if fractured. Intraoperative reconstruction was analyzed. Subjective and objective scoring were used according to Olerud and Molander and the ankle arthritis was scored according to the classification determined by the SOFCOT in 1992.

Results: A minimal follow-up of 1 year for all cases was obtained, based on our own files. Thirty-eight patients (40 fractures) were evaluated after an average period of 88 months (56 to 124 months). Five patients developed cutaneous infection, three developed deep infection and four developed superficial skin necrosis. One aseptic non-union necessitated reoperation after 14 months. Two ankles had joint fusion after 19 and 25 months respectively due to severe arthritis. In six cases infectious and non-infectious complications led to surgical revision. According to the Olerud and Molander score, 15 per cent of the results were excellent, 45 per cent were good, 30 per cent were fair and 10 per cent poor.

Discussion: Literature shows a wide range of results following this surgical procedure. This is due to the difference in the type of trauma, classification system used, material used for the internal fixation and method of evaluation. The classification system of Rüedi and Allgöwer is the most commonly used but has a rather subjective tendency, especially between type II and type III. Treatment is difficult, especially for comminutive fractures associated with soft tissue damage. In this case, open reduction and internal fixation could increase iatrogenic lesions. For this reason surgical procedure can be delayed for several days, little material is used and soft tissue manipulation is reduced to minimum. In other study reports, the use of external fixation with or without minimal internal fixation have produced less complications without improving long term results.

Conclusion: Analysis and comparison of study reports are difficult because of the absence of consensus in classification system and evaluation methods. The AO-classification, apparently the most objective, will probably be more and more used in the future. Treatment must be adapted to the bony lesion and soft tissue damage. Open reduction and internal fixation must be reserved for a specific group of lesion.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone Transplantation
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osteitis / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tibial Fractures / classification
  • Tibial Fractures / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome