Functional outcomes of the failed plate fixation in distal tibial fractures salvaged by hexapod external fixator

Maketo Molepo, Annette Christi Barnard, Franz Birkholtz, Kevin Tetsworth, Vaida Glatt, Erik Hohmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the clinical and functional outcomes of failed plate fixation in distal tibia fractures salvaged with hexapod circular fixators. Materials and methods: The database of a specialized limb reconstruction center was searched for all patients with failed plate fixation undergoing limb reconstruction with a circular external fixator between 2008 and 2017. Patients between the ages of 18–65 years, with a symptomatic distal tibia malunion or non-union following plate and screw fixation were included. The SF-12 and Foot Function Index (FFI) scoring systems were used to measure clinical and functional outcomes. Results: Ten patients with a mean age of 38 ± 13 years met the inclusion criteria. Seven patients had an infected non-union, two hypertrophic non-unions, and one a malunion. The mean follow-up was 41.7 ± 28.3 months. The mean duration of external fixation was 232.9 ± 146.6 days. The SF-12 demonstrated a mean score of 49.4 ± 7.7 for the physical component and a mean score of 55.3 ± 8.1 for the mental component. Five patients (50%) scored above 45 points for the SF12 physical component, and nine patients (90%) scored above 45 points for the mental component, indicating good outcome can be achieved. The mean FFI score was 24.9 ± 19.9, and six patients had a score below 14 points (good outcome). Radiological union was observed in all 10 patients at a mean of 29 ± 14 months. Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that hexapod circular external fixation is an attractive surgical alternative for the treatment of failed plate fixation of distal tibial fractures, and can reliably achieve bony union and result in very satisfactory clinical outcomes. Level of Evidence: Level IV case series.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1617-1624
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Circular external fixation
  • Distal tibial fractures
  • Hexapod
  • Non-union
  • Plate fixation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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