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Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2007 Oct;127(8):625-31. Epub 2007 Apr 5.

Open grade III "floating ankle" injuries: a report of eight cases with review of literature.

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University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, CF14 4XW, UK.



"Floating ankle" injuries result from high-energy trauma and are usually associated with extensive soft tissue damage. Such rare and complex injuries in the acute phase pose therapeutic dilemma to the treating surgeon. When salvage instead of amputation is preferred, a variety of treatment options are available ranging from open reduction along with minimal internal fixation to external fixation. In this retrospective case series study we report eight patients with open "floating ankle" injuries who had been treated with external fixation with or without internal fixation.


Eight consecutive patients (7M: 1F) with mean age of 28 years (range 18-35 years) were treated. All had Grade III open fractures of the distal tibia with foot fractures and various degrees of soft tissue injuries. ISS and MESS were used to assess injury severity. Immediate radical wound debridement; skeletal stabilization and early soft tissue coverage were done by combined trauma and plastic surgical services followed by standard post-operative rehabilitation. All the patients were assessed with SF-36 questionnaire at mean follow-up of 2.5 years (range 2-4 years).


Three patients were treated primarily with Ilizarov ring fixators, one had hybrid fixation and the other four had Hoffman frames. Four patients needed further surgeries. One patient developed metatarsal osteomyelitis, which was debrided and treated with antibiotics. The SF-36 results were compared with age matched UK norms for men and women in all categories. Only two patients returned to their previous employment. Six suffered varying degrees of disability out of which one underwent amputation.


External fixation with or without internal fixation is an option when salvaging rare injuries like open grade III "floating ankle" injuries. Salvaged patients do suffer a cocktail of crippling disease characterized by psycho-socio-economic and physical disability and result in increased hospital costs. We recommend more prospective studies with long-term follow-up of such complex injuries to identify the indications for salvage and also the criteria for a successful salvage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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