Background: Anatomic surgical realignment of ankle fractures may still be associated with poor clinical outcomes, possibly as a result of occult intra-articular injury. The aim of this study was to determine if the severity of an acute ankle fracture is correlated with an increased number of arthroscopically detected intra-articular chondral lesions.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of the medical charts on 283 ankle fractures that had been treated with open reduction and internal fixation and for which ankle arthroscopy had been routinely performed. The severity of the ankle fractures was categorized, with use of the arthroscopic findings derived from the operative reports as well as the findings on preoperative radiographs, according to the Lauge-Hansen criteria.
Results: Of the 283 patients, eighty-four (forty-four female and forty male) met our inclusion criteria. Chondral lesions were found in sixty-one patients (73%). Of seventeen fractures graded as pronation-external rotation or supination-external rotation type I according to the Lauge-Hansen classification, fifteen were associated with one or no chondral lesion and two, with two or more chondral lesions. Of ten fractures graded as pronation-external rotation or supination-external rotation type II, nine were associated with one or no chondral lesion and one, with two or more chondral lesions. Of fifty-six fractures graded as pronation-external rotation or supination-external rotation type IV, twenty-seven were associated with one or no chondral lesion and twenty-nine, with two or more chondral lesions. Type-IV pronation-external rotation and supination-external rotation ankle fractures were more likely to be associated with two or more chondral lesions than type-I fractures (odds ratio = 8.1, 95% confidence interval = 1.7 to 38.6; p = 0.0044) or type-II fractures (odds ratio = 9.7, 95% confidence interval = 1.1 to 81.5; p = 0.0172).
Conclusions: Chondral lesions are commonly found after an acute ankle fracture. This retrospective study demonstrated that the number of intra-articular chondral lesions associated with the more severe ankle fracture patterns (pronation-external rotation and supination-external rotation type-IV fractures) was greater than the number associated with the less severe ankle fracture patterns.
Level of Evidence: Prognostic Level II. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.