Recognition and management of Tillaux fractures in adolescents

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Tillaux fractures are relatively uncommon Salter Harris III fractures of the tibia. The importance of recognizing this fracture is that a residual deformity in the joint surface can lead to premature degenerative arthritis. For this reason, it is important that accurate imaging to assess the congruity of the joint, as well as adequate reduction, is obtained. These fractures can occur in adolescents in the 18-month period during which the distal tibial epiphysis is closing. These injuries occur either by lateral rotation of the foot or by medial rotation of the leg on the fixed foot. Closed reduction is sufficient in most cases; however, if a gap of ≥2 mm of the articular surface remains, open reduction is usually required to adequately reduce the articular surface.Orthopedic injuries are one of the most common reasons children are brought to the emergency department (ED). Most of these injuries are easily managed by splinting, with outpatient orthopedic follow-up. However, certain fractures need closer evaluation and immediate consultation with an orthopedic surgeon. One relatively uncommon fracture that needs special attention is the Tillaux fracture.Paul Jules Tillaux first described this particular fracture in 1892. He performed experiments on cadavers and found that stress to the anterior inferior tibiofibular ligament could lead to this type of avulsion fracture, which today is termed the Tillaux fracture (1). The distal tibial epiphysis is involved, and the mechanism usually is forced external rotation of the foot in a 12− to 14-year-old adolescent. This fracture only occurs during a certain time of adolescence, owing to the differential growth rate of the epiphysis, and only under certain circumstances (2,3). The fracture is of great importance because it involves a major weight-bearing articular surface. A residual deformity of the joint surface can lead to premature degenerative arthritis (4).We present a patient with a Tillaux fracture to elaborate on the mechanism of injury and to summarize the importance of its recognition and imaging and treatment options.

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