Soft tissue complications and timing of surgery in patients with a tongue-type displaced intra-articular calcaneal fracture: An international retrospective cohort study

A. Siebe de Boer, Esther M. M. van Lieshout, Freek van ‘t Land, Dominique Misselyn, Tim Schepers, Dennis den Hartog, Michael H. J. Verhofstad, Freek van 't Land

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Introduction: Tongue-type displaced intra-articular calcaneal fractures (DIACF) are associated with a specific pattern of fracture displacement in contrast to joint depression fractures. This may result in tension of soft tissue in the posterior part of the heel. Tension-induced ischemia can result in skin necrosis. The objectives of this study were to investigate whether patients with tongue-type calcaneal fractures exert a higher risk of complications, especially of the posterior soft tissues, than joint depression type fractures. Also, late interventions (e.g., antibiotics, debridements, and amputations) and the effect of timing of surgery on the complication rate was assessed. Methods: In this international retrospective cohort study, data of adult patients with a DIACF in the period January 1, 2005–December 31, 2015 were extracted from patients’ medical files. Descriptive, univariate, and multivariable analyses were performed in SPSS. Results: A total of 560 patients with 632 DIACF were included (295 tongue-type and 337 non-tongue-type fractures). At hospital presentation, 20.3% of the patients with a tongue-type fracture had compromised posterior soft tissue versus 12.8% with non-tongue-type fractures (p = 0.032). However, corrected for potential confounders the risk was no longer statistically significant (OR 1.497; 95% CI 0.831–2.696). Patients with a TT-DIACF had a 1.2–3.4-fold higher rate of any local wound complication (deep infections, and full thickness lesions, p < 0.03). In addition they had 2.0–8.0-fold more intravenous antibiotics, debridements, soft tissue coverage procedures and amputations (p < 0.03). Patients who underwent surgery within two days after trauma had a higher risk to develop any complication, in particular superficial infections, when compared to surgery between 3–7 days, but no significant difference between 3 and 7 and ≥8 days could be demonstrated. Conclusion: Despite the fact that patients with a tongue-type fracture developed posterior skin and soft tissue compromise nearly twice as often, this difference disappeared after correction for confounders. The overall complication risk was increased in patients with tongue-type calcaneal fractures as compared to patients with a non-tongue-type fracture. Whether or not patients with tongue-type fractures require immediate surgery cannot be concluded from the data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-429
Issue number2
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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