Background: In minimally displaced Weber B ankle fractures, the distal fibular fracture fragment can be externally rotated. This malrotation is difficult to detect on radiographs and, when left malreduced through nonoperative treatment, may contribute to altered joint mechanics, predisposing to posttraumatic osteoarthritis. This study evaluates the effects of fibular malrotation on tibiotalar joint contact mechanics. Methods: Six cadaveric ankles were tested using a materials testing system (MTS) machine. A tibiotalar joint sensor recorded contact area and pressure. Samples were tested in the intact, neutrally rotated, and malrotated state. Each trial applied a 686N axial load and a 147N Achilles tendon load in neutral position, 15° dorsiflexion, and 15° plantarflexion. Results: In the comparison of malrotated to intact ankles, peak contact pressure was found to be significantly greater at neutral flexion (intact 5.56 MPa ± 1.39, malrotated 7.21 MPa ± 1.07, P =.03), not significantly different in dorsiflexion, and significantly decreased in plantarflexion (intact 11.2 MPa ± 3.04, malrotated 9.01 MPa ± 1.84, P =.01). Significant differences in contact area were not found between conditions. Conclusion: The findings suggest that fibular malrotation contributes to significant alterations in tibiotalar joint contact pressures, which may contribute to the development of posttraumatic osteoarthritis. When malrotation of the fibula is suspected on plain radiographs, a computer tomography (CT) scan should be obtained to evaluate its extent and further consideration should be given to surgical treatment. Levels of Evidence: Level V: Bench testing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine