To describe the extraosseous blood supply of the tibia and how the blood supply of the distal tibia is influenced by different plating techniques.Design
Microdissection of cadaveric adult hip disarticulation specimens following sequential arterial injections of india ink and Ward's Blue Latex was performed. Readily identifiable arterioles measured approximately 0.5 mm in diameter. Their artery of origin was identified, and their position along the medial, lateral, and posterior aspects of the tibia was documented relative to the tibial plafond. Additionally, six matched pairs of limbs were used to assess the effects of different plating techniques on the extraosseous blood supply along the medial aspect of the distal tibia.Setting
University anatomy laboratory.Patients/Participants
Nine matched pairs (n = 18) of randomly obtained, adult cadaveric hip disarticulation specimens.Intervention
India ink followed by Ward's Blue Latex was injected into the superficial femoral artery at the level of the inguinal crease after cleansing of the arterial system. The skin, subcutaneous tissue, and muscles were dissected from the leg, exposing the arterial system and the extraosseous vessels of the tibia.Mean Outcome Measurements
The extraosseous blood supply of each aspect of the tibial diaphysis was determined. Each extraosseous arteriole was identified, and the locations of each documented relative to the tibial plafond. Changes in the filling of these vessels along the medial aspect of the distal tibia were documented in a separate group of specimens (n = 12), which had undergone two different plating techniques.Results
The proximal metaphysis of the tibia was found to have a rich extraosseous blood supply provided primarily from vessels from the popliteal artery, the anterior tibial artery (ATA) laterally, and the posterior tibial artery (PTA) medially. In comparison, the tibial diaphysis was found to have relatively few extraosseous vessels and a considerably hypovascular region, posteriorly. Branches of the ATA were found to supply the posterior aspect of the diaphysis with these branches passing through the interosseous membrane. The diaphysis also received a variable contribution from the PTA. The lateral aspect of the diaphysis was supplied by branches of the ATA. An anastomotic network of arteries from the ATA and PTA formed the rich extraosseous blood supply of the medial distal aspect of the tibia. Open plating of the medial aspect of the distal tibia caused a statistically significant (p < 0.05) greater disruption of the extraosseous blood supply of the metaphyseal region than did percutaneously applied plates. In each specimen, open plating prevented filling of each periosteal vessel in the region as opposed to percutaneous plates, which permitted filling of the extraosseous vessels up to the edge of the plate.Conclusions
The proximal and distal metaphyseal areas of the tibia have a rich extraosseous blood supply provided primarily by branches of the ATA and the PTA. Open plating of the medial aspect of the distal tibia caused a greater disruption of this extraosseous blood supply than did percutaneously applied plates. Disruption of these extraosseous vessels following fracture and subsequent operative stabilization may slow healing and increase the risk of delayed union and nonunion. These findings support current efforts to develop less invasive methods and implants for operative stabilization of distal tibia fractures.