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Children's Orthopaedics

Femoro-pedal distraction in staged reconstructive treatment of tibial aplasia

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The treatment of tibial aplasia is controversial. Amputation represents the gold standard with good functional results, but is frequently refused by the families. In these patients, treatment with reconstructive limb salvage can be considered. Due to the complexity of the deformity, this remains challenging and should be staged. The present study evaluated the role of femoro-pedal distraction using a circular external fixator in reconstructive treatment of tibial aplasia. The purpose of femoro-pedal distraction is to realign the limb and achieve soft tissue lengthening to allow subsequent reconstructive surgery.


This was a retrospective study involving ten patients (12 limbs) with tibial aplasia, who underwent staged reconstruction. During the first operation a circular hexapod external fixator was applied and femoro-pedal distraction was undertaken over several months. Subsequent surgery included reconstruction of the knee joint and alignment of the foot.


The mean follow-up was 7.1 years (2 to 10). The mean age of the patients at the time of the application of the fixator was 2.3 years (1.1 to 5.0). The mean time under distraction was 139.7 days (81.0 to 177.0). A mean fibular distalization of 38.7 mm (14.0 to 67.0) was achieved. Pin infections occurred in four limbs (33.3%) and osteitis in one. A femoral fracture occurred in one patient. Premature removal of the frame was not required in any patient. Sufficient realignment of the leg as well as soft tissue lengthening was achieved in all patients, allowing subsequent reconstruction. All patients were able to mobilize fully weight bearing after reconstruction. Functional outcome was limited in all limbs, and five patients (50.0%) required additional reconstructive operations.


Regarding the functional results in the treatment of tibial aplasia, amputation remains superior to limb salvage. The latter procedure should only be performed in patients whose parents refuse amputation. Femoro-pedal distraction efficiently prepares the limb by realigning the leg and soft tissue lengthening. Minor complications are frequent, but usually do not hinder the continuation of distraction. Even though a fully weight-bearing limb is achieved, the functional outcome of reconstructive treatment remains limited. Recurrent deformities frequently occur and may require further operations.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(9):1248–1255.

Correspondence should be sent to Andrea Laufer. E-mail:

A. Laufer and A. Frommer contributed equally to this work

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