Complications following treatment of supination external rotation ankle fractures through the posterolateral approach

Milton T.M. Little, Marschall B. Berkes, Lionel E. Lazaro, Peter K. Sculco, David L. Helfet, Dean G. Lorich

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36 Scopus citations


Background: The posterolateral approach to the ankle is a valuable approach for the treatment of ankle fractures (SER) ankle fractures. The purpose of this study was to determine the complication rate for ankle fractures treated through the posterolateral approach. We hypothesized that this approach would be associated with a low incidence of complications and good clinical outcomes. Methods: A total of 112 patients with SER ankle fractures treated through a posterolateral approach met inclusion criteria. Prospectively collected data were examined retrospectively from chart review, preoperative plain radiographs, and MRI as well as postoperative radiographs. The mean age was 51.5 (range, 18 to 86) years. The primary outcome of the study was major (surgical debridement, flap, or split thickness skin graft) and minor (epidermolysis requiring local wound care) wound complications. The secondary outcomes included infection, symptomatic hardware, reoperation, loss of reduction, malreduction, nonunion, Foot and Ankle Outcome Scores, range of motion, and other perioperative complications. Results: There were 11 minor wound related complications (9.8%) and 3 major wound complications (2.7%), 1 of which required a split thickness skin graft. The overall postoperative wound infection rate was 4.4% (5 of 112); 2 patients required hardware removal due to deep infection. Of patients, 7% (8 of 112) reported symptomatic lateral sided hardware and thus underwent removal of implants. The overall reoperation rate was 12.5%. The complication rate was 23%. No patients experienced loss of reduction. Conclusions: The posterolateral approach to the ankle was a valuable approach for SER ankle fractures. This series demonstrated many key aspects of this approach including access to the apex of the fibula fracture for posterior antiglide plating, access to the posterior malleolus for fixation, access to the posterior inferior tibiofibular ligament for repair, minimal major wound complications, good functional outcomes, and minimal need for reoperation. Level of Evidence: Level IV, retrospective evaluation of prospectively collected data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-529
Number of pages7
JournalFoot and Ankle International
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Ankle fractures
  • Complications
  • Functional outcome
  • Posterolateral approach
  • Supination external rotation
  • Wound complications


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