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Screw-only fibular construct for Weber B ankle fractures: A retrospective clinical and cost comparison to assess feasibility for resource-limited settings

Published:October 17, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.injury.2022.10.018

      Highlights

      • The majority of the global population live in resource-limited countries, where implant cost may limit surgical treatment of ankle fractures.
        As the fibula carries only 6.4-17% of bodyweight in stance, the biomechanical strength required of fibular fixation constructs is in question.
      • We demonstrate a novel screw-only technique (SOT) with two fibula pro tibia screws to neutralize an interfragmentary screw.
      • The screw-only fixation had a lower implant cost (mean $592 for screw only fixation versus mean $1,949.97 for the standard treatment).
      • All patients maintained an anatomic mortise throughout the postoperative period, but there was a higher rate of hardware removal in the SOT group.

      Abstract

      Introduction

      Ankle fractures are one of the most common injuries sustained worldwide, with the majority being isolated lateral malleolus fractures. The majority of the world's population live in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC), where implant cost may limit surgical treatment of ankle fractures. We investigate if Weber B ankle fractures could be effectively treated with a lower-cost technique using two screws between the fibula and the tibia to neutralize an interfragmentary lag screw.

      Methods

      After IRB approval, consecutive patients from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 with Weber-B ankle fractures were treated using AO technique (AOT) with plate osteosynthesis neutralizing an interfragmentary screw. Syndesmotic injuries, as well as injuries to the medial malleolus or foot were treated according to the surgeon's preferences. From January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021 these injuries were treated with a screw-only technique (SOT) with two fibula pro tibia screws to neutralize an interfragmentary screw. Patient demographics including age, sex, BMI, smoking status, associated rheumatoid arthritis, and associated diabetes mellitus were recorded. The primary outcome variable was a stable radiographic mortise at six weeks post-surgery, secondary outcome variables included clinical union, infection, hardware removal, and implant cost for lateral malleolar fixation charged to the hospital.

      Results

      Seventeen AOT and 10 SOT constructs were included. Demographic characteristics were similar between groups. All fractures maintained a stable mortise with clinical union at 6 weeks without infection. There was a statistically significant difference in hardware removal (17.6% AOT, 50% SOT, p = 0.012). The average implant cost to the hospital of the lateral malleolar fixation was significantly less in the SOT group ($592 (SD $229)), compared to the AOT group ($1,949.97 (SD $562)), (p < 0.0001).

      Conclusion

      We introduce proof of concept of a novel lower-cost fixation strategy for Weber B ankle fractures that maintained a stable mortise with clinical union at six weeks post-surgery. However, there was a significantly higher rate of hardware removal following fixation with a screw-only construct.

      Keywords

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