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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 52  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 220-230

Calcaneal fractures – Should we or should we not operate?

1 University Center for Orthopaedics and Traumatology, University Hospital Carl-Gustav Carus, Dresden, Germany
2 Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
3 Michigan Orthopedic Center, Sparrow Hospital, Lansing, MI, USA

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Stefan Rammelt
University Center for Orthopaedics and Traumatology, University Hospital Carl-Gustav Carus, Fetscherstrasse 74, 01307 Dresden
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ortho.IJOrtho_555_17

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The best treatment for displaced, intraarticular fractures of the calcaneum remains controversial. Surgical treatment of these injuries is challenging and have a considerable learning curve. Studies comparing operative with nonoperative treatment including randomized trials and meta-analyses are fraught with a considerable number of confounders including highly variable fracture patterns, soft-tissue conditions, patient characteristics, surgeon experience, limited sensitivity of outcome measures, and rehabilitation protocols. It has become apparent that there is no single treatment that is suitable for all calcaneal fractures. Treatment should be tailored to the individual fracture pathoanatomy, accompanying soft-tissue damage, associated injuries, functional demand, and comorbidities of the patient. If operative treatment is chosen, reconstruction of the overall shape of the calcaneum and joint surfaces are of utmost importance to obtain a good functional result. Despite meticulous reconstruction, primary cartilage damage due to the impact at the time of injury may lead to posttraumatic subtalar arthritis. Even if subtalar fusion becomes necessary, patients benefit from primary anatomical reconstruction of the hindfoot geometry because in situ fusion is easier to perform and associated with better results than corrective fusion for hindfoot deformities in malunited calcaneal fractures. To minimize wound healing problems and stiffness due to scar formation after open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) through extensile approaches several percutaneous and less invasive procedures through a direct approach over the sinus tarsi have successfully lowered the rates of infections and wound complications while ensuring exact anatomic reduction. There is evidence from multiple studies that malunited displaced calcaneal fractures result in painful arthritis and disabling, three-dimensional foot deformities for the affected patients. The poorest treatment results are reported after open surgical treatment that failed to achieve anatomic reconstruction of the calcaneum and its joints, thus combining the disadvantages of operative and nonoperative treatment. The crucial question, therefore, is not only whether to operate or not but also when and how to operate on calcaneal fractures if surgery is decided.

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