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Outcomes of Operative Treatment of Unstable Ankle Fractures: A Comparison of Metallic and Biodegradable Implants
Jung Ho Noh, MD, PhD1; Young Hak Roh, MD2; Bo Gyu Yang, MD3; Seong Wan Kim, MD3; Jun Suk Lee, MD3; Moo Kyung Oh, MD1
1 Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery (J.H.N.) and Preventive Medicine (M.K.O.), Kangwon National University Hospital, 156 Baengnyeong-ro, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do 200-722, South Korea. E-mail address for J.H. Noh: bestknee@hotmail.com
2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Gil Medical Center, Gachon University School of Medicine, 1198 Kuwol-dong, Namdong-gu, Incheon 405-760, South Korea. E-mail address: ryhak@hanmail.net
3 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, National Police Hospital, Garakbon-dong 58, Songpa-gu, Seoul 138-708, South Korea
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Investigation performed at the National Police Hospital, Seoul, South Korea

Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. None of the authors, or their institution(s), have had any financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with any entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. Also, no author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 Nov 21;94(22):e166 1-7. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.01221
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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.

Level of Evidence: 

Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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