Frequency and risk factors of complications after surgical treatment of ankle fractures : a retrospective study of 433 patients


Ankle fracture ; surgery ; post-operative complications

Published online: Feb 13 2021

Claire Cammas, Amaury Ancion, Christine Detrembleur, Karim Tribak, Dan Putineanu, Olivier Cornu

From the Cliniques Universitaires St Luc, Belgium


Ankle fractures are frequently treated using surgical interventions, and are associated with a high rate of postoperative complications. We wonder if complications can be anticipated and correlated to patient demographics, lifestyle, fracture or surgery related factors. We retrospectively reviewed all medical reports of patients who underwent ankle fracture surgery between 2013 and 2017. We focused our risks factors analysis on 5 common complications : poor wound healing, surgical site infection, malunion, nonunion and chronic pain. Multivariate logistic regression was performed to analyze significant risk factors for these complications. We identified 433 patients. Complications were present in 26% of the cases. The most frequent complication was poor wound healing (10%) associated with deep surgical site infection in 6%. Malunion was found in 7% and nonunion in 3%. Seven percent of patients suffered from chronic pain. More severe fractures happened to be a risk factor for poor wound healing (p = 0,032) and malunion (p < 0,001). Open fractures had respectively 6 to 9 times more mal- (p = 0,012) and nonunion (p = 0,018). Overweight patients with alcohol abuse were doubling their chances of cutaneous (p = 0,030) and infectious (p = 0,040) complications, and tripling their risks of ankle fracture nonunion (p = 0,003). Female and patients operated at night (p = 0,045) seemed to be more at risk to develop chronic pain (p = 0,028). Complications of ankle fracture treatment are frequent and their risks increases with more complex and open fractures. This study brings new evidence concerning the combined effect of overweight and alcohol abuse on poor wound healing, surgical site infection and non-union.