Certain patients with pilon fractures present with significant soft-tissue swelling or with a poor soft-tissue envelope typically not amenable to definitive fixation in the early time period. The objective of this study was to review the treatment of simple intra-articular fractures of the tibial plafond (Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Osteosynthesefragen/Orthopaedic Trauma Association (AO/OTA) type 43C1-C2) via intramedullary nailing (IMN) with the assessment of clinical and radiographic results and any associated complications.

Retrospective clinical and radiological reviews of 31 patients sustaining AO/OTA type 43C distal tibial fractures treated with IMN were evaluated. Our main outcome measurement included achievable alignment in the immediate postoperative period and at the time of union along with complications or need for secondary procedures within the first year of follow-up.

Seven patients were lost to follow-up. All the remaining patients achieved bony union at a mean union time of 14.1 ± 4.9 weeks with no evidence of malunion or malrotation. All patients were at full-weight-bearing status at 1-year follow-up. Complications were notable for one delayed union, one non-union, one patient with superficial wound drainage, two with deep infection, one with symptomatic hardware and one with deep vein thrombosis.

Simple articular fractures of the tibial plafond (AO/OTA type 43C) treated via IMN can achieve excellent alignment and union rates with proper patient selection and surgical indication. One should not hesitate to use additional bone screws or plating options to help achieve better anatomic reduction. However, larger, prospective randomised trials comparing plating versus nailing, in experienced hands, are needed to completely delineate the utility of this treatment modality.