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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2012 Nov 21;94(22):e166. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.01221.

Outcomes of operative treatment of unstable ankle fractures: a comparison of metallic and biodegradable implants.

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Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery, Kangwon National University Hospital, 156 Baengnyeong-ro, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do 200-722, South Korea.



Biodegradable implants for internal fixation of ankle fractures may overcome some disadvantages of metallic implants, such as imaging interference and the potential need for additional surgery to remove the implants. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the outcomes after fixation of ankle fractures with biodegradable implants compared with metallic implants.


In this prospectively randomized study, 109 subjects with an ankle fracture underwent surgery with metallic (Group I) or biodegradable implants (Group II). Radiographic results were assessed by the criteria of the Klossner classification system and time to bone union. Clinical results were assessed with use of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) ankle-hindfoot scale, Short Musculoskeletal Function Assessment (SMFA) dysfunction index, and the SMFA bother index at three, six, and twelve months after surgery.


One hundred and two subjects completed the study. At a mean of 19.7 months, there were no differences in reduction quality between the groups. The mean operative time was 30.2 minutes in Group I and 56.4 minutes in Group II (p < 0.001). The mean time to bone union was 15.8 weeks in Group I and 17.6 weeks in Group II (p = 0.002). The mean AOFAS score was 87.5 points in Group I and 84.3 points in Group II at twelve months after surgery (p = 0.004). The mean SMFA dysfunction index was 8.7 points in Group I and 10.5 points in Group II at twelve months after surgery (p = 0.060). The mean SMFA bother index averaged 3.3 points in Group I and 4.6 points in Group II at twelve months after surgery (p = 0.052). No difference existed between the groups with regard to clinical outcomes for the subjects with an isolated lateral malleolar fracture.


The outcomes after fixation of bimalleolar ankle fractures with biodegradable implants were inferior to those after fixation with metallic implants in terms of the score on the AOFAS scale and time to bone union. However, the difference in the final AOFAS score between the groups may not be clinically important. The outcomes associated with the use of biodegradable implants for the fixation of isolated lateral malleolar fractures were comparable with those for metallic implants.

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