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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 48  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 145-150

Treatment of complicated distal tibial fractures in diabetic patients

Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt

Correspondence Address:
Mootaz F Thakeb
MD, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Ain Shams University, 66 Abul Attaheya Street, Abbas Akkad Extension, 11471 Cairo
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.7123/01.EOJ.0000428834.38905.2c

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The treatment of fractures of the distal tibia is associated with high complication rates. Diabetes mellitus places patients at an increased risk for complications following distal tibia fractures whether treated conservatively or surgically. However, this risk is specific to patients with comorbidities of diabetes. There has been debate on the ideal method for the treatment of these patients because much of the literature has highlighted the extremes of potentially poor outcomes. Less invasive techniques for realignment of distal tibial fractures and reduction of the articular fragments using an Ilizarov fixator with or without minimal internal fixation have been recommended as reliable and safe methods for the treatment of these patients.

Patients and methods

Between June 2008 and January 2012, 25 patients with type II diabetes mellitus receiving oral and/or insulin for blood sugar control, with complicated distal tibia fractures, were treated using an Ilizarov fixator. All patients presented within 6 months from their primary treatment in other centers. Fifteen patients were treated conservatively in a cast or braces. Ten patients were treated surgically. All patients presented with nonunited fractures and 22 patients had varus malalignment. Ten of the 15 patients who were treated conservatively had deep pressure sores. Assessment of the ankle brachial index and vascular Doppler study were used as noninvasive techniques to verify the vascularity in the affected limb.


In all patients, the fractures healed, with no need for any procedure to enhance healing. All patients were followed up for 12 months after fixator removal. The average time in an external fixator was 18.1 weeks (average12–22 weeks). On the final follow-up, none of the patients had a long-term sequel of infection. Malunion with less than 5π varus occurred in five patients. None of the patients developed Charcot neuroarthropathy or required amputation during the treatment or at the final follow-up. Long-term bracing for up to 6 months after frame removal was required in five patients with varus malalignment and in the patient who had a proximal fracture.


Diabetic patients with recent or complicated distal tibia fractures having one or more diabetic comorbidities, but with good peripheral vascularity and continuous control of blood sugar level, they can be treated using an Ilizarov external fixator with a lower complication rate than open reduction and internal fixation procedures and with results comparable to those of nondiabetic patients.

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