Indirect reduction and tension-band plating of tibial non-union with deformity.
D L Helfet ; J B Jupiter ; S Gasser


Thirty-three patients who had a maligned non-union of the tibial diaphysis were treated by limited open exposure, indirect reduction with a femoral distractor, tension-band plating, lag-screw fixation, and autogenous bone-grafting. The time from the injury to treatment of the non-union averaged twenty-nine months. Twenty-two of the fractures were originally open and sixteen fractures had had a previous infection before treatment of the non-union. The non-unions were classified as hypertrophic in eight patients, oligotrophic in eighteen, and atrophic in seven. All had severe deformity, or the nature or level of the non-union, or both, precluded intramedullary nailing as a treatment option. All thirty-three non-unions healed at an average of four months; the average length of follow-up was nineteen months. The deformity was corrected, within acceptable limits, in thirty-two of the patients. Full motion of the knee was achieved in twenty-nine patients and of the ankle, in eighteen. Complications included four instances of superficial skin breakdowns, one deep infection, and one fracture of the plate. For non-unions of the tibial diaphysis with deformity that are not amenable to intramedullary nailing, the techniques of limited exposure, indirect reduction, tension-band plating, and bone-grafting can yield excellent anatomical and functional results.