Background: Currently, the metallic syndesmotic screw is the gold standard in the treatment of syndesmotic disruption. Whether or not this screw needs to be removed remains debatable. The aim of the current study was to determine the complications which occur following routine removal of the syndesmotic screw following operative treatment of unstable ankle fractures. Methods: This was a retrospective study with consecutive cases in a Level-2 Trauma center. All patients with routine removal of a syndesmotic screw, following the treatment of an unstable ankle fracture, between January 1, 2004 and November 30, 2010 were included. Complications recorded were: 1) minor or major wound infection following removal of the syndesmotic screw, 2) recurrent syndesmotic diastasis, and 3) unnecessary removal of a broken screw, not recognized during preoperative planning prior to surgery. Results: A total of 76 patients were included. A wound infection occurred in 9.2% (N=7) of which 2.6% (N=2) were deep infections requiring reoperation. Recurrent syndesmotic diastasis was found in 6.6% (N=5) of patients, and in 6.6% (N=5) screws were broken at the time of implant removal. In the group with recurrent diastasis the screws were removed significantly earlier compared with the group without recurrent diastasis (Mann- Whitney U-test; p = 0.011) and the group with screw breakage had their screws significantly longer in place compared with the group without breakage (p = 0.038). Conclusion: A total of 22.4% complications occurred upon routine removal of the syndesmotic screw. Removal might therefore be considered only in selected cases with complaints, after a minimum of eight to twelve weeks and using antibiotic prophylaxis during removal. Copyright

, , ,,
Surgery and Traumatology
Foot & Ankle International
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Schepers, T., van Lieshout, E., de Vries, M., & van der Elst, M. (2011). Complications of syndesmotic screw removal. Foot & Ankle International, 32(11), 1040–1044. doi:10.3113/FAI.2011.1040