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The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 95-B, Issue 12 | Pages 1662 - 1666
1 Dec 2013
Parker L Garlick N McCarthy I Grechenig S Grechenig W Smitham P

The AO Foundation advocates the use of partially threaded lag screws in the fixation of fractures of the medial malleolus. However, their threads often bypass the radiodense physeal scar of the distal tibia, possibly failing to obtain more secure purchase and better compression of the fracture.

We therefore hypothesised that the partially threaded screws commonly used to fix a medial malleolar fracture often provide suboptimal compression as a result of bypassing the physeal scar, and proposed that better compression of the fracture may be achieved with shorter partially threaded screws or fully threaded screws whose threads engage the physeal scar.

We analysed compression at the fracture site in human cadaver medial malleoli treated with either 30 mm or 45 mm long partially threaded screws or 45 mm fully threaded screws. The median compression at the fracture site achieved with 30 mm partially threaded screws (0.95 kg/cm2 (interquartile range (IQR) 0.8 to 1.2) and 45 mm fully threaded screws (1.0 kg/cm2 (IQR 0.7 to 2.8)) was significantly higher than that achieved with 45 mm partially threaded screws (0.6 kg/cm2 (IQR 0.2 to 0.9)) (p = 0.04 and p < 0.001, respectively). The fully threaded screws and the 30mm partially threaded screws were seen to engage the physeal scar under an image intensifier in each case.

The results support the use of 30 mm partially threaded or 45 mm fully threaded screws that engage the physeal scar rather than longer partially threaded screws that do not. A 45 mm fully threaded screw may in practice offer additional benefit over 30 mm partially threaded screws in increasing the thread count in the denser paraphyseal region.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2013;95-B:1662–6.