Scientific Articles   |    
Open Reduction and Internal Fixation Compared with Circular Fixator Application for Bicondylar Tibial Plateau FracturesResults of a Multicenter, Prospective, Randomized Clinical Trial

View Disclosures and Other Information
A commentary is available with the electronic versions of this article, on our web site (www.jbjs.org) and on our quarterly CD-ROM (call our subscription department, at 781-449-9780, to order the CD-ROM).
In support of their research for or preparation of this manuscript, one or more of the authors received grants or outside funding from Smith and Nephew, Ltd., and the Simon Fraser Orthopaedic Fund. None of the authors received payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity. No commercial entity paid or directed, or agreed to pay or direct, any benefits to any research fund, foundation, educational institution, or other charitable or nonprofit organization with which the authors are affiliated or associated.

The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2006 Dec 01;88(12):2613-2623. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.E.01416
5 Recommendations (Recommend) | 3 Comments | Saved by 3 Users Save Case


Background: Standard open reduction and internal fixation techniques have been successful in restoring osseous alignment for bicondylar tibial plateau fractures; however, surgical morbidity, especially soft-tissue infection and wound necrosis, has been reported frequently. For this reason, several investigators have proposed minimally invasive methods of fracture reduction followed by circular external fixation as an alternative approach. To our knowledge, there has been no direct comparison of the two operative approaches.

Methods: We performed a multicenter, prospective, randomized clinical trial in which standard open reduction and internal fixation with medial and lateral plates was compared with percutaneous and/or limited open fixation and application of a circular fixator for displaced bicondylar tibial plateau fractures (Schatzker types V and VI and Orthopaedic Trauma Association types C1, C2, and C3). Eighty-three fractures in eighty-two patients were randomized to operative treatment (forty-three fractures were randomized to circular external fixation and forty to open reduction and internal fixation). Follow-up consisted of obtaining a history, physical examination, and radiographs; completion of the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) knee score, the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), and the Short Form-36 (SF-36) General Health Survey; and recording of complication and reoperation rates.

Results: There were no significant differences between the groups in terms of demographic variables, mechanism of injury, or fracture severity and/or displacement. However, patients in the circular fixator group had less intraoperative blood loss than those in the open reduction and internal fixation group (213 mL and 544 mL, respectively; p = 0.006) and spent less time in the hospital (9.9 days and 23.4 days, respectively; p = 0.024). The quality of osseous reduction was similar in the groups. There was a trend for patients in the circular fixator group to have superior early outcome in terms of HSS scores at six months (p = 0.064) and the ability to return to preinjury activities at six months (p = 0.031) and twelve months (p = 0.024). These outcomes were not significantly different at two years. There was no difference in total arc of knee motion, and the WOMAC scores at two years after the injury were not significantly different between the groups with regard to the pain (p = 0.923), stiffness (p = 0.604), or function (p = 0.827) categories. The SF-36 scores at two years after the injury were significantly decreased compared with the controls for both groups (p = 0.001 for the circular fixator group and p = 0.014 for the open reduction and internal fixation group), although there was less impairment in the circular fixator group in the bodily pain category (a score of 46) compared with the open reduction and internal fixation group (a score of 35) (p = 0.041). Seven (18%) of the forty patients in the open reduction and internal fixation group had a deep infection. The number of unplanned repeat surgical interventions, and their severity, was greater in the open reduction and internal fixation group (thirty-seven procedures) compared with the circular fixator group (sixteen procedures) (p = 0.001).

Conclusions: Both techniques provide a satisfactory quality of fracture reduction. Because percutaneous reduction and application of a circular fixator results in a shorter hospital stay, a marginally faster return of function, and similar clinical outcomes and because the number and severity of complications is much higher with open reduction and internal fixation, we believe that circular external fixation is an attractive option for these difficult-to-treat fractures. Regardless of treatment method, patients with this injury have substantial residual limb-specific and general health deficits at two years of follow-up.

Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Figures in this Article
    Sign In to Your Personal ProfileSign In To Access Full Content
    Not a Subscriber?
    Get online access for 30 days for $35
    New to JBJS?
    Sign up for a full subscription to both the print and online editions
    Register for a FREE limited account to get full access to all CME activities, to comment on public articles, or to sign up for alerts.
    Register for a FREE limited account to get full access to all CME activities
    Have a subscription to the print edition?
    Current subscribers to The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery in either the print or quarterly DVD formats receive free online access to JBJS.org.
    Forgot your password?
    Enter your username and email address. We'll send you a reminder to the email address on record.

    Forgot your username or need assistance? Please contact customer service at subs@jbjs.org. If your access is provided
    by your institution, please contact you librarian or administrator for username and password information. Institutional
    administrators, to reset your institution's master username or password, please contact subs@jbjs.org


    Accreditation Statement
    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.
    CME Activities Associated with This Article
    Submit a Comment
    Please read the other comments before you post yours. Contributors must reveal any conflict of interest.
    Comments are moderated and will appear on the site at the discretion of JBJS editorial staff.

    * = Required Field
    (if multiple authors, separate names by comma)
    Example: John Doe

    Related Content
    The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery
    JBJS Case Connector
    Topic Collections
    Related Audio and Videos
    Clinical Trials
    Readers of This Also Read...
    JBJS Jobs
    Massachusetts - The University of Massachusetts Medical School
    Georgia - Choice Care Occupational Medicine & Orthopaedics
    Pennsylvania - Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center