What makes tibial plateau fracture different from other bone damages? Find out below.
In this article:
- What Is a Tibial Plateau Fracture?
- What Causes a Tibial Plateau Fracture?
- What Are the Common Tibial Plateau Fracture Symptoms?
- What Are the Diagnostic Exams for Tibial Plateau Fracture?
- What Is the Treatment for Tibial Plateau Fracture?
- What Are the Options for Tibial Plateau Fracture Surgery?
- What Is Recovery like for Tibial Plateau Fracture?
What You Need To Know About Tibial Plateau Fracture
What Is a Tibial Plateau Fracture?
A tibial plateau fracture is a break in the upper part of the shin bone. In addition to the fracture, damage to the muscle, soft tissues, bones, skin, ligaments, blood vessels and nerves also commonly accompany the injury. These injuries must all be treated together, often times by surgery, to restore motion, stability, and strength of the leg.
What Causes a Tibial Plateau Fracture?
You may sustain minor breaks from excessive activity or from weakened bones (caused by either infection or cancer). Most cases usually result from trauma or injury.
Most cases for younger people are usually caused by a fall from a considerable height, vehicular accidents or sports. Older people may sustain the injury by simply falling down from standing because of their weakened bone quality.
What Are the Common Tibial Plateau Fracture Symptoms?
- The knee may exhibit signs of deformity.
- Pain which worsens when the affected leg has weight placed on it.
- The area around the knee starts to swell and bending the joint is limited.
- Pale and cool feeling feet may be a sign of the blood supply being impaired.
- Numbness of the feet or feeling a pins and needles sensation around that area may be symptoms of excessive swelling of the leg or even nerve damage.
What Are the Diagnostic Exams for Tibial Plateau Fracture?
- X-Rays are the usual way to check a fracture. They provide clear images of the bone to show breaks and fractures and their location.
- Computed Tomography or CT scan displays more detail about the fracture. It gives your doctor valuable information about the fracture and helps your doctor decide how to proceed.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI scan gives clear images of the soft tissues such as ligaments and tendons. This test is not usually used for this kind of fracture, but your doctor may ask for it to help check whether the soft tissues surrounding the knees sustained additional injuries. The scan also helps check the bone marrow in case the X-Rays do not catch the fracture.
Different tests may be prescribed by the doctor which may be unrelated to your injured leg. These tests are needed to check that no other part of your body is injured.
What Is the Treatment for Tibial Plateau Fracture?
The injury can be treated using surgical or non-surgical methods (casting, braces, physical therapy and medication). Both methods carry their own risks and benefits. The doctor prescribes the treatment based on the type of damage the injury has caused while considering the patient’s needs. Factors such as lifestyle, expectations, and medical condition will be considered amongst many things before a doctor prescribes a method of treatment.
What Are the Options for Tibial Plateau Fracture Surgery?
Performing surgery to fix the joint is often done for active individuals. This method maximizes joint motion and stability and minimizes the risk of developing arthritis. Surgeons may use different methods to align the bone fragments and keep them together as they heal.
Open Reduction Internal Fixation (ORIF) is the procedure where the bone fragments are positioned back to their original place and held together by special devices such as plates, screws or intramedullary rod. There are times when the soft tissues’ condition has degraded too much that using a rod or plate may cause more damage. External fixators may be used as treatment and will be removed after the healing is done.
External fixators are surgically set using screws or metal pins and are placed between the thigh and shin bones. The screws and pins are then attached to a bar which is outside of the skin. This treatment holds your bones in the right position until you have recovered enough and surgery can be done.
What Is Recovery like for Tibial Plateau Fracture?
The tibial plateau fracture recovery process requires strict compliance to post-surgery or post-treatment plan which typically involves:
- Pain Management – Experiencing pain before, during and after treatment is normal and part of the recovery process. Doctors and nurses will work with you to ease your pain by prescribing pain medications and teaching you diversion exercises.
- Physical Therapy – Your doctor decides when moving your knee should begin to prevent damage and stiffness. This will depend on how good the skin and muscles are recovering and how much danger the fracture may face when moving. If your doctor sees enough recovery, then your physical therapy can begin.
- Weight-bearing Activities must be avoided until your injury has shown enough progress in recovery. It may take 3 months or even more before activities such as walking without a walker or crutches can be done.
Check out this video from Dr. David Geier to learn more about tibial plateau fractures:
In the end, learning more about tibial plateau fracture can help you to a speedy recovery. Everyone’s case is unique, and it’s important to consult with a doctor immediately if you are experiencing symptoms to prevent it from getting worse. Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice to prevent any complications that may arise.
What advice do you have for people experiencing a tibial plateau fracture? Tell us in the comments section below!
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