Background: Operative indications for surgical treatment of posterior malleolar fractures associated with fractures of the distal fibula and tibia are not currently well defined. The purpose of the present study was to determine the current practice among orthopaedic surgeons regarding the management of posterior malleolus fractures. Materials and Methods: Web-based questionnaires were emailed to members of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) and American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS). Requested information included demographics and treatment preferences for five clinical scenarios with different fracture characteristics. Four hundred one respondents completed the survey (20% response rate). Ninety eight (24%) subjects had received specialty training in orthopaedic trauma, 199 (50%) in foot and ankle (F&A) surgery and six (2%) in both orthopaedic trauma and F&A surgery. Ninety five (24%) had either no or other specialty training. Results: The most frequently reported indication for fixation was not based on a fragment size threshold, but rather was "depends on stability and other factors" (56%). Trauma surgeons, those with less than 10 years experience, and those who treated more than five ankles fractures per month were significantly more likely to use factors other than size for indications (p = 0.026, <0.01, and <0.01, respectively). Despite this general response, fragment size still affected treatment decisions. A fragment comprising 50% of the articular surface was indicated for fixation by 97% of respondents, while a size of 10% would be treated by only 9% of respondents. For a posterior fragment with 20% articular involvement and a small free osteochondral fragment, fixation was deemed necessary by 44% of respondents. There were no differences in fellowship training, years of experience in practice, or ankle fracture volume per month in these three situations. A larger proportion of trauma trained surgeons considered fixation necessary compared to F&A trained surgeons in this case (p = 0.028). When posterior malleolus fixation was indicated for a large fragment, direct open reduction using the flexor hallucis longus -peroneal tendon interval was the most commonly selected approach in all cases. Trauma-trained surgeons were significantly more likely to choose antiglide plate fixation compared to screw-only fixation (p < 0.05). Conclusion: In this survey study of trauma and F&A surgeons, significant variation existed regarding most aspects of posterior malleolar ankle fracture treatment. Most notably, factors other than fragment size most impacted surgical indications. Newer techniques such as direct exposure and plating of the posterior malleolus are chosen more frequently than traditional techniques of indirect reduction and percutaneous screw fixation.
- Ankle fracture
- Distal tibial fracture malleolar
- Posterior malleolus
- Surgical indications