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Predictive Factors for Knee Stiffness After Periarticular FractureA Case-Control Study
Julius Bishop, MD1; Julie Agel, MA, ATC2; Robert Dunbar, MD2
1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, 450 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA 94063. E-mail address: jabishop@stanford.edu
2 Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, University of Washington/Harborview Medical Center, 325 9th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104
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Investigation performed at the University of Washington/Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Washington

This article was chosen to appear electronically on September 12, 2012, in advance of publication in a regularly scheduled issue.

A commentary by Peter G. Mangone, MD, is linked to the online version of this article at jbjs.org.

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):1833-1838. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00659
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Knee stiffness is an important complication after periarticular fracture, but a systematic evaluation of risk factors for this complication and outcomes of treatment has not been undertaken, to our knowledge. The aims of this study were to evaluate risk factors for knee stiffness requiring manipulation after periarticular fracture and to document the clinical outcomes of the manipulation.


This study was designed as a case-control study in which patients requiring manipulation under anesthesia after periarticular fracture were compared with those who did not require manipulation. Using billing data from a regional level-I trauma center, we identified twenty-four knees requiring manipulation for refractory stiffness over a six-year period. These were matched, on the basis of the AO/OTA classification, with forty-three control knees that did not develop stiffness requiring manipulation. Descriptive statistics were used for frequency and mean analysis.


Univariate analysis revealed that extensor mechanism disruption (chi square = 0.05), fasciotomy (chi square = 0.020), wounds requiring ongoing management and precluding knee motion (p = 0.001), and the need for more than two surgical procedures to achieve definitive fracture fixation and soft-tissue coverage (p = 0.003) all placed patients at increased risk for knee stiffness requiring manipulation. The mean improvement in knee motion following all procedures targeting knee stiffness was 62°. Mean final flexion was significantly less in the case group (107°) compared with the control group (124°; p = 0.01).


To our knowledge, this is the first study to systematically evaluate the risk factors for knee stiffness after periarticular fracture and document the outcomes of manipulation under anesthesia. It demonstrates that injury characteristics that delay or prevent postoperative knee motion place patients at increased risk for refractory knee stiffness. Although knee motion remains compromised, late surgery aimed at improving knee motion leads to improvements in flexion.

Level of Evidence: 

Prognostic Level III. 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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