Acute hindfoot nailing for ankle fractures Academic Article uri icon

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  • Objectives

    To assess the complication rate of hindfoot nailing of acute fractures involving the tibiotalar joint, and mortality, patient-reported outcome measures, and return to preinjury activities.

    Data sources


    Study selection

    A systematic literature search for articles in English was completed using MEDLINE and EMBASE databases on April 23, 2020. Original research articles that assessed patients with acute intra-articular fractures of the ankle joint (malleolar ankle fractures and/or pilon fractures) that were treated with a locked hindfoot intramedullary nail, inserted retrograde through the plantar surface of the foot, were selected for inclusion. Case reports (≤4 patients), studies with nonlocked implants, and non-English studies were excluded.

    Data extraction and synthesis

    A validated data extraction form was used, which included study demographics (authors, journal, date of publication, and study design), patient characteristics, implant type, and reported outcomes. Risk of bias for each included study was evaluated using the Institute of Health Economics Quality Appraisal Checklist for case series and the Risk of Bias in randomized trials tool, where appropriate. The best evidence was summarized and weighted mean values were provided when appropriate.


    Ten case series and one randomized controlled trial were included. The overall quality of studies was poor with considerable bias. The majority of studies included elderly patients (weighted mean age 75.5 years) with diabetes (42% of patients). Overall complication rate was 16% with an 8% major complication rate (deep infection, malunion, nonunion, implant failure) and an overall infection rate of 6.2%. Pooled mortality rate was 27% with fracture union rates from 88% to 100%. Mean proportion of patients able to return to preinjury level of activity was 85%.


    Hindfoot nailing of acute ankle and pilon fractures in elderly patients and patients with diabetes is associated with complication rates comparable with other methods of fixation. Issues with elimination of subtalar joint motion and implant complications secondary to poor implant fixation persist. The literature to date has composed of primarily Level IV studies with considerable bias. Further research is necessary to clarify the role of hindfoot nailing of acute ankle and pilon fractures.

    Level of evidence

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

publication date

  • March 4, 2021