Second Place Award Immediate versus delayed operative treatment of low-energy tibial plateau fractures

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Current management of tibial plateau fractures requires careful soft-tissue management. Often a staged approach with temporary external fixation followed by delayed internal fixation is recommended. While proven in high-energy injuries, its relevance in treating low-energy fractures has not been investigated. The goal of the current study was to assess the short-term complication rates in low-energy tibial plateau fractures treated early (<48 hr). As a secondary aim, we investigated whether surgical approach would affect rates of wound complications.


This is a retrospective analysis of patients treated operatively for low-energy tibial plateau fractures at a level-1 urban trauma center between January 1, 2000 and January 1, 2010. Schatzker type 1-3 fractures were considered “low-energy,” despite stated mechanism. Statistical analysis was performed using chi-square and Fischer’s exact tests.


We analyzed 49 patients. From these, 29 received early (<48 hr) definitive surgery, while 20 had surgery delayed (>48 hr). The early treatment group had an infection rate of 3.4% and total complication rate of 20.6%. The delayed treatment group had an infection rate of 5.0% and total complication rate of 25%. There was no significant difference with respect to superficial infection (P=1.0), deep infection (P=0.48), or total complications (P=0.74) Additionally, infection rates did not differ between surgical approaches (P=1.0, 1.0).


Early surgical fixation (<48 hr) of low-energy tibial plateau fractures can be performed safely. Additionally, a midline approach did not increase soft-tissue complications and could be utilized in a patient with a prior midline incision, or one who will soon require a knee arthroplasty.

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