External Fixation Versus ORIF for Distal Intra-articular Tibia Fractures

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 6-2012


Tibia plafond fractures have historically demonstrated high complication rates. The purpose of this study was to assess the outcomes of tibia plafond fractures following treatment with definitive external fixation vs delayed open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF). Sixty patients were enrolled in a prospective cohort trial at 1 Level I trauma center. No differences were noted between the 2 treatment groups in terms of age, smoking history, presence of comorbidities, mechanism of injury, incidence of open fractures, or Orthopaedic Trauma Association fracture classification. Complete 12-month follow-up was available for 18 patients in the definitive external fixation group and 27 patients in the ORIF group. No difference was noted in articular reduction between the groups at 6 and 12 months postoperatively. Delayed union or nonunion occurred in 4 (22.2%) of 18 patients in the external fixation group and 1 (3.7%) of 27 patients in the ORIF group (P5.05). Deep infection was equally likely in either group (P5.33). The ORIF group had improved Iowa Ankle Scores at 6 (23.6612.1 vs 11.167.7; P,.05) and 12 months (5.562.2 vs 3.161.7; P,.05) postopertively and improved Short Form-36 Physical Function scores at 6 months (49.7630.1 vs 25.5618.0; P,.05) postoperatively compared with the external fixation group.

External fixation and ORIF can attain bony union with adequate articular reduction and similar infection rates. Patients treated with ORIF appeared to have improved union rates and early outcomes with ankle function and Short Form-36 Physical Function scores.


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doi: 10.3928/01477447-20120525-25