Extracapsular Placement of Distal Tibial Transfixation Wires

Anand M. Vora*, Steven L. Haddad, Anish Kadakia, Martin L. Lazarus, Bradley R. Merk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Treatment of tibial plafond fractures with external fixation may involve use of transfixation wires within the periarticular region. Pin track infections that develop along wires placed intracapsularly may lead to joint infection. To our knowledge, there have been no previous investigations assessing the circumferential reflection of the ankle capsule or the potential for communication between the distal tibiofibular joint and the tibiotalar joint. The purpose of this study was to define these anatomic entities to provide guidelines for safe extracapsular placement of distal tibial wires. Methods: Twelve fresh-frozen cadaveric ankles and three ankles of living human volunteers were utilized for this study. High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging was performed on each ankle after pressurized distention of the joint capsule with gadolinium solution. The perpendicular distance from the subchondral bone at the joint line to the capsular synovial reflection was measured with use of a verified technique. The cadaveric ankles were sectioned, the capsular synovial reflections were measured by investigators who were blinded to the imaging results, and the corresponding measurements were compared. Results: The anterolateral capsular synovial region displayed the most proximal reflection in all specimens (mean, 9.3 mm; maximum, 12.2 mm). The anteromedial region displayed less reflection (mean, 3.3 mm; maximum, 5.5 mm). All posteromedial and posterolateral synovial reflections were ≤2 mm. Capsular synovial reflections proximal to the medial and lateral malleoli were negligible. In all ankles, the distal tibiofibular joint communicated with the tibiotalar joint and had a maximum proximal extension of 20.6 mm. Conclusions: Placement of distal tibial transfixation wires >12.2 mm from the subchondral surface of the plafond avoids penetration of the capsule. The distal tibiofibular joint communicates with the tibiotalar joint and thus should not be penetrated, to ensure extracapsular placement of the wires. Clinical Relevance: Stabilization with distal tibial transfixation wires should be proximal to the reflected joint capsule and should avoid penetration of the distal tibiofibular joint to minimize the risk of penetration of the capsule and the potential for joint infection as a sequela of superficial pin track infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)988-993
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery - Series A
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Extracapsular Placement of Distal Tibial Transfixation Wires'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this