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From 1987 to 1993, 41 Grade 3B open tibial shaft fractures were treated with the unreamed tibial nail or an external fixator. The method of treatment was left to the choice of the operating surgeon. Three below knee amputations were performed; three patients died; and three were lost to followup. Thirty-two patients were observed until union or for at least 1 year. There were no significant statistical differences between the two groups with respect to fracture type, fracture location, age, gender, or accompanying injuries. The unreamed tibial nail group showed significantly better results regarding time to full weightbearing, number of reoperations, isolated bone grafting, walking range, and average Karlström and Olerud score. Time to bony union, infection, and nonunion were not significantly different between the groups.