What is Tibial Plateau Fracture?
The upper surface of the tibia (shin bone) is the tibial plateau. This tibial plateau is highly susceptible to fracture in accidents involving high speed e.g. skiing, horse riding and some water sports.
Tibial plateau fracture is a serious condition as the upper surface of the bone or the tibial plateau comprises of structures which are vital to the functioning of the knees. This is why tibial plateau fractures are commonly associated with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, collateral ligaments (MCL and/or LCL) injuries, menisci and articular cartilage injuries. Although tibial plateau fractures are treatable, they make the knee joint more prone to early onset of osteoarthritis, especially in younger patients. These fractures also affect the stability and motion of the knee joint.
Symptoms of Tibial Plateau Fracture
- Recent history of trauma to the knee followed by swelling and pain in the knee.
- Inability to bear weight on the injured side.
- Stiffness in the knee.
- There may be deformation of the knee due to displacement and/or fragmentation of the tibia resulting in loss of the knee's normal structural appearance.
- Bruising and a doughy feel of the knee joint.
Treatment of Tibial Plateau Fracture
- RICE technique can be applied.
- Medical assistance should be sought immediately
- X-ray must be done for correct diagnosis of the fracture.
- If damage to soft tissues such as ligaments and cartilage is suspected then an MRI scan should also be done.
- Treatment options depend on the severity of the damage.
- Depending on the severity and the nature of the injury, there are 6 different classifications of tibial plateau fractures in surgical terms. However, broadly the fractures of the tibial plateau can be classified into two main groups: Displaced and Non-displaced fractures.
Treatment For Non-Displaced Fracture of Tibia and Its Recovery Period
In this type of fracture, the tibial plateau or the tibia is fractured without any bone fragment separation. These fractures have a better prognosis than displaced fractures and often heal within 3-4 months without any surgical intervention, but the patient should not bear weight on the injured side and should wear a knee brace on the injured leg. Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises are required to maintain strength of the leg and should be continued throughout the recovery phase.
Treatment For Displaced Fracture of Tibia and Its Recovery Period
In this type of fracture, the tibial plateau or the tibia breaks into two or more fragments. Surgery is usually required for this type of fractures to re-fix the fragments in place and to promote proper healing of the bone tissue. The bones are fixed in place by placing screws and/or plates in and around the broken bone fragments to keep them secure. Recovery after the surgery can take a number of months. The patient should not bear weight on the injured side for a long period of time. If there have been soft tissue injuries, then the recovery process takes longer time.