Metaphyseal Distal Tibia Fractures: A Cohort, Single-Surgeon Study Comparing Outcomes of Patients Treated With Minimally Invasive Plating Versus Intramedullary Nailing

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The purpose of this study was to compare clinical and functional outcomes of patients with distal tibia fractures treated with minimally invasive plating (MIPO) or intramedullary nailing (IMN).


Cohort study.


Level II regional trauma center.


Overall, 86 patients with metaphyseal distal fractures (within 5 cm of joint) with simple or no articular involvement treated by a single, fellowship trained, orthopedic trauma surgeon from 2002 to 2013.


Intramedullary nailing or minimally invasive plate osteosynthesis.

Main Outcome Measures:

Clinical and radiographic results were evaluated at a minimum of 1-year follow-up. Limb-specific outcomes (American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons' ankle–hindfoot instrument) and whole-person measures [Short Form 36 (SF-36) instrument] were assessed at the final follow-up.


We studied 86 patients with distal tibia fractures treated with MIPO (43 patients) and IMN (43 patients). Thirty-seven patients in the MIPO group and 27 in the IMN group met inclusion criteria. All patients ultimately healed, with the average time to union of 23 weeks in both the groups. Complications were similar between the 2 groups (MIPO vs. IMN, respectively), including nonunion (8% vs. 7%), malalignment (3.6% vs. 3%), wound complications (3.6% vs. 3%), and infection (0% vs. 3.6%). The need for secondary procedures for the removal of implants was 25.9% in the IMN group (distal locking screws only in 6/7) versus 8.3% in the MIPO group (P = 0.05). Additionally, the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons and all SF-36 version 2 domain scores were quantitatively higher for the IMN group, although only Role Emotional reached a level of statistical superiority between the groups.


Similar clinical results and marginally enhanced functional outcomes were seen when treating nonarticular or minimally articular metaphyseal distal tibia fractures with IMN compared with MIPO. However, patients treated with IMN required more frequent secondary surgeries for the removal of painful distal locking screws.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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