Tibial pilon fractures: A comparison of treatment methods

Kevin J. Pugh, Philip R Wolinsky, Mark P. McAndrew, Kenneth D. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Objective: This retrospective review of surgically treated distal tibia fractures was undertaken to determine whether treatment with open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) was more efficacious in achieving fracture union than one of two external fixation methods. Methods: Of the 60 study patients with pilon fractures, 21 patients were treated with an ankle-spanning half- pin external fixator, 15 patients with a single-ring hybrid external fixator, and 24 patients with ORIF. The severity of injuries was similar across groups. Results: There was no significant difference in complication rates between groups, although two below-knee amputations were required in the ORIF group. A greater (p = 0.03) number of malunions occurred in the fractures treated with external fixation when compared with those treated with ORIF. Fractures in the external fixator groups showed this significant tendency to lose their initial adequate reduction, independent of bone grafting or fibula fixation. There was no significant difference between groups in the need for bone grafting. There was a trend for patients treated with a single ring hybrid to require late bone grafting for metaphyseal-diaphyseal nonunion. Conclusion: External fixation offers advantages in the treatment of the soft- tissue injury associated with pilon fractures, but malunion continues to be a problem with this method of fixation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)937-941
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone transplantation
  • External fixators
  • Internal fixation
  • Pilon
  • Tibial fractures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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