The challenge of the infected pilon tibial non-union: treatment with radical resection, bone transport and ankle arthrodesis


Pilon tibial ; Non-union ; Bone transport ; Ankle arthrodesis ; Retrograde nailing

Published online: Jan 09 2021

Annelien Brauns, Johan Lammens

From the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, KULeuven, University Hospital Pellenberg, Belgium


A significant number of patients with pilon tibial fractures develop complications, the most devastating being a combination of infection and non-union with bone loss.

The results of the Ilizarov bone transport technique were retrospectively evaluated in ten patients. All underwent an extensive resection and reconstruction aiming at an ankle arthrodesis. The outcome was registered by clinical and radiographic examination as proposed by Paley’s functional and bone results classification.

A good healing at the level of the docking site could be obtained in all patients but with a re- intervention in 8 of the 10. In 5 of these patients, re-intervention with a transcalcaneal nailing leaded to the final healing. Other options are debridement of the docking site (2 patients) and a new Ilizarov procedure (1 patient).

If patients are prepared to participate in a long-term treatment with the risk of multiple interventions a reconstruction can be performed, resulting in a limb with an acceptable function, allowing all activities of daily life and even a professional occupation. To obtain this final result with a definite union at the docking site a secondary retrograde intramedullary nailing is considered a valuable and safe procedure.