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A Comparison of Two Approaches for the Closed Treatment of Low-Energy Tibial Fractures in Children
Mauricio Silva, MD1; Michael J. Eagan, MD2; Melissa A. Wong, BA1; Daniel H. Dichter, BA1; Edward Ebramzadeh, PhD1; Lewis E. Zionts, MD1
1 Los Angeles Orthopaedic Hospital, 2400 South Flower Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007. E-mail address for M. Silva: msilva@laoh.ucla.edu
2 Department of Orthopaedics, UCLA Orthopaedic Hospital, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, 10833 Le Conte Avenue, 16-155 CHS, Los Angeles, CA 90095
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Investigation performed at Los Angeles Orthopaedic Hospital, Los Angeles, California

Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. One or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 Oct 17;94(20):1853-1860. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.J.01728
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Many orthopaedic surgeons treat tibial shaft fractures in children with a period of non-weight-bearing after application of a long leg cast, presumably to prevent fracture angulation and shortening. We hypothesized that allowing children to immediately bear weight as tolerated in a cast with the knee in 10° of flexion would lessen disability, without increasing the risk of unacceptable shortening or angulation.


We divided eighty-one children, between the ages of four and fourteen years, with a low-energy, closed tibial shaft fracture into two groups. One group (forty children) received a long leg cast with the knee flexed 60° and were asked not to bear weight. The second group (forty-one children) received a long leg cast with the knee flexed 10° and were encouraged to bear weight as tolerated. All patients were switched to short leg walking casts at four weeks. We compared time to healing, overall alignment, shortening, and physical disability as determined by the Activities Scale for Kids-Performance (ASK-P) questionnaire.


The mean time to fracture union was 10.8 weeks in both groups (p = 0.47). At the time of healing, mean coronal alignment was within 1.3° in both groups, mean sagittal alignment was within 1°, and mean shortening was <0.5 mm, with no significant differences. The ASK-P scores showed that both groups had overall improvement in physical functioning over time. However, at six weeks, the children who were allowed to bear weight as tolerated had better overall scores (p = 0.03) and better standing skills (p = 0.01) than those who were initially instructed to be non-weight-bearing.


Children with low-energy tibial shaft fractures can be successfully managed by immobilizing the knee in 10° of flexion and encouraging early weight-bearing, without affecting the time to union or increasing the risk of angulation and shortening at the fracture site.

Level of Evidence: 

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

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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