There is currently no consensus regarding the need for fixation of concomitant fibula fractures in patients with surgically treated distal tibia fracture. Although studies have shown it to be beneficial for fractures involving the syndesmosis, it remains unclear for suprasyndesmotic fractures. This study evaluates what effect the fixation of such suprasyndesmotic fibula fractures had on patients who underwent fixation of distal tibia fractures.

This retrospective cohort study included all consecutive adult patients who received surgical treatment for an extra-articular or simple intraarticular distal tibia fracture between 2012 and 2020 and had a concomitant fibula fracture proximal to the syndesmosis. Two groups were formed depending on whether the fibula was stabilized. The need for revision surgery, the occurrence of complications, fracture healing, rotational and angular malalignment were evaluated for both groups.

This study included 120 patients, of which 40 (33.3%) had operative treatment of the fibula fracture. Of those with stabilized fibula fractures, 28 (70%) were treated with a plate and 12 (30%) with a titanium elastic nail. The group of patients with surgically treated fibula fractures had significantly more angular malalignments (10% vs 1.2%, p = 0.042), while there was no difference regarding rotational malalignment or fracture healing. Further, infections of the fibular surgical site occurred in 15% of surgically treated patients leading to significantly more revision surgeries in this group (40% vs 20%, p = 0.03). All infections occurred when a plate was used.

This study was unable to show any benefit from stabilizing concomitant, suprasyndesmotic fibula fractures in surgically treated distal tibia fractures. On the contrary, infection, revision surgery and angular malalignment were more frequent when the fibula was fixed. Therefore, such concomitant fibula fractures should not routinely be fixed and if stabilization is deemed necessary, the implant should be chosen carefully.