Is routine removal of syndesmotic screw justified? A meta-analysis

Academic Article


  • Background: Syndesmosis injuries are common with rotational ankle injuries, and placement of a positional syndesmotic screw to maintain its reduction is used as the ligaments heal. There is no clear consensus on routine removal or retention of syndesmotic screw. This study aimed to appraise the current evidence both on removal and retention of syndesmotic screw and to conduct a meta-analysis comparing outcomes and rate of complications of syndesmotic screw removal and retention. Methods: Following PROSPERO registration, a systematic search using was performed using keywords (‘Syndesmosis’ OR ‘Syndesmotic’ OR ‘Transsyndesmotic’ OR ‘distal tibiofibular’) AND (‘Screw’) AND (‘Removal’ OR ‘Retention’) AND ‘Outcome’ in various databases. No language restrictions were applied and the meta-analysis incorporated the PRISMA statement. VAS (Visual analogue scale for pain), AOFAS (American Orthopaedic Foot And Ankle Society) scores expressed as mean ± SD, and both groups’ complication rates were compared. Comparisons with a random-effects model were performed, and heterogeneity between the studies was calculated using the I2 statistic. T-test for two independent sample means was used to compare pooled mean and Z-test for two proportions to assess the difference in the proportion of complications. Results: A total of 7 studies with 522 patients were included in this review for analysis. Pooled analysis showed non-significant difference in AOFAS score (MD = −1.84; 95% CI: −4.33 to 0.66; p = 0.150) as well as for VAS score (MD = −0.48; 95% CI: −1.56 to 0.60; p = 0.390) between the two groups. The value of z and p-value for complication rates was 0.6021 and 0.5485, respectively, which was not significant. Conclusion: There doesn't appear to be a difference in functional outcome, pain scores, and complication rates between patients who had their syndesmotic screws removed and those where screw was retained. The fear of inferior outcomes with retained screws is thus unfounded, and routine removal adds to morbidity and financial burden. In conclusion, present data does not support the routine removal of the intact syndesmosis screw, and a change in practice is needed to abandon routine syndesmotic screw removal.
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    Author List

  • Khurana A; Kumar A; Katekar S; Kapoor D; Vishwakarma G; Shah A; Singh MS
  • Volume

  • 49