To describe the arterial blood supply of the subcutaneous tissues of the lateral hindfoot and define the relationships between these arteries and the lateral extensile incision used for open reduction and internal fixation of calcaneal fractures.

Human cadaveric lower extremity specimens, doubly injected with India ink and latex, were used to demonstrate the location of the arteries of the subcutaneous tissues of the lateral hindfoot.

Anatomy laboratory.

Twenty-four randomly obtained, cadaveric elderly lower extremity specimens.

India ink and then latex were injected into the superficial femoral artery at the level of the inguinal crease after cleansing of the arterial system. Transtibial amputation specimens were manually debrided of the skin and chemically debrided of subcutaneous tissues with sodium hypochlorite to demonstrate the arterial supply to the soft tissues of the lateral hindfoot. MEAN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: The location of the three major arteries was determined relative to the lateral malleolus. The proximity of these vessels to the typical extensile lateral incision was determined radiographically with vascular clips applied along each artery and skin staples placed along the path of the typical skin incision.

Three arteries, the lateral calcaneal artery, the lateral malleolar artery, and the lateral tarsal artery, were consistently found along the lateral aspect of the hindfoot. The lateral calcaneal artery appeared to be responsible for the majority of the blood supply to the corner of the flap and, because of its proximity to the vertical portion of the typical incision, it appeared most likely to be injured from inaccurate placement of the incision.

The development of wound complications following open reduction and internal fixation of the calcaneus is multifactorial. Disruption of the blood supply to the surgically created flap may play a larger role in the development of wound complications than previously thought. An understanding of the local vascular anatomy may decrease the rate of wound complications during the operative treatment of intraarticular calcaneal fractures.