Treatment of comminuted intraarticular calcaneal fractures remains controversial and challenging. Anatomic reduction with stable fixation has demonstrated better outcomes than nonoperative treatment of displaced intraarticular fractures involving the posterior facet and anterior calcaneocuboid joint (CCJ) articulating surface of the calcaneus. The aim of this study was to investigate the biomechanical performance of three different methods for fixation of comminuted intraarticular calcaneal fractures.
Comminuted calcaneal fractures, including Sanders III-AB fracture of the posterior facet and Kinner II-B fracture of the CCJ articulating calcaneal surface, were simulated in 18 fresh-frozen human cadaveric lower legs by means of osteotomies. The ankle joint, medial soft tissues and midtarsal bones along with the ligaments were preserved. The specimens were randomized according to their bone mineral density to 3 groups for fixation with either (1) 2.7 mm variable-angle locking anterolateral calcaneal plate in combination with one 4.5 mm and one 6.5 mm cannulated screw (Group 1), (2) 2.7 mm variable-angle locking lateral calcaneal plate (Group 2), or (3) interlocking calcaneal nail with 3.5 mm screws in combination with 3 separate 4.0 mm cannulated screws (Group 3). All specimens were biomechanically tested until failure under axial loading with the foot in simulated midstance position. Each test commenced with an initial quasi-static compression ramp from 50 N to 200 N, followed by progressively increasing cyclic loading at 2Hz. Starting from 200 N, the peak load of each cycle increased at a rate of 0.2 N/cycle. Interfragmentary movements were captured by means of optical motion tracking. In addition, mediolateral X-rays were taken every 250 cycles with a triggered C-arm. Varus deformation between the tuber calcanei and lateral calcaneal fragments, plantar gapping between the anterior process and tuber fragments, displacement at the plantar aspect of the CCJ articular calcaneal surface, and Böhler angle were evaluated.
Varus deformation of 10° was reached at significantly lower number of cycles in Group 2 compared to Group 1 and Group 3 (P ≤ 0.017). Both cycles to 10° plantar gapping and 2 mm displacement at the CCJ articular calcaneal surface revealed no significant differences between the groups (P ≥ 0.773). Böhler angle after 5000 cycles (1200 N peak load) had significantly bigger decrease in Group 2 compared to both other groups (P ≤ 0.020).
From biomechanical perspective, treatment of comminuted intraarticular calcaneal fractures using variable-angle locked plate with additional longitudinal screws or interlocked nail in combination with separate transversal screws seems to provide superior stability as opposed to variable-angle locked plating only.