A tibial plateau fracture is a break to the upper surface of the tibia (shin bone). The tibial plateau is prone to becoming fractured in high-speed accidents such as those associated with skiing, horse riding, and certain water sports.
Tibial plateau fracture symptoms
- There is normally a recent history of trauma to the knee.
- Severe pain and swelling in the knee joint.
- You will be unable to weight bear and may complain of the stiffness of the knee joint.
What is a tibial plateau fracture?
Fractures of the tibial plateau are considered quite serious. The upper surface of the tibia bone contains structures which are critical to the knees functioning. In particular, cartilage meniscus and the cruciate ligaments are essential for a stable knee.
Hence, fractures of the tibial plateau are often associated with injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament, collateral ligaments (MCL or LCL), menisci and articular cartilage. This damage, although repairable, makes you much more susceptible to early onset of osteoarthritis, particularly in younger patients.
- Rest and apply cold therapy or ice and compression to help reduce pain and swelling. Seek medical assistance immediately.
- In order to correctly diagnose a fracture, an X-ray must be performed. If soft tissue (ligaments, cartilage, etc) damage is suspected an MRI scan may also be advised.
- Once your tibial plateau fracture has been diagnosed a number of treatment options are available depending on the extent of the damage.
How bad is my injury?
In surgical terms, there are 6 different classifications, depending on the severity and the nature of the injury. However, broadly speaking fractures can be separated into two main groupings: Displaced and Non-displaced fractures.
Non displaced tibial plateau fracture
- A non-displaced fracture is when the tibia sustains a break or crack without a fragment of the bone becoming separated.
- These normally have a better outcome than displaced fractures and heal without surgical intervention within 3-4 months.
- Within this time the patient may be required not to weight bear and to wear a knee brace on the injured knee.
- Physical therapy rehabilitation exercises are needed to maintain leg strength soon after injury and should be continued throughout the recovery phase.
Displaced tibial plateau fracture
- A displaced fracture is one where the bone breaks into two or more fragments. In this case, surgery is normally needed to re-fix the fragments in place to encourage correct healing of the bone tissue.
- This fixation is usually achieved by placing screws and/or plates in and around the bone fragments to keep them secure.
- Recovery following surgery may take a number of months and will require the patient not to weight bear for a long period of time. If soft tissue injuries have been sustained this recovery process may take longer.
References & further reading
- Google scholar – Tibial plateau fracture