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KNEE

Tibial Plateau Fractures

A tibial plateau fracture is a break or fracture in the top of the tibia or shin bone (larger of the two bones of the lower leg), near the knee. The fracture involves the cartilage surface of the knee joint. The knee joint helps supports our body weight, and when the proximal tibia is fractured, standing and walking becomes difficult.

Tibial plateau fractures cause pain at the upper shin bone (tibia) near the knee joint.

In younger adults, most tibial plateau fractures are a result of high-velocity trauma to the leg, such as automobile accidents or high impact sports. In the elderly, tibial fractures occur more commonly with falls. Risk factors, especially in the elderly, for tibial plateau fractures include infection and osteoporosis (thinning of the bone).

Tibial Plateau Fracture Symptoms

The most common symptoms of tibial plateau fracture is pain or discomfort near the upper part of your shin following an impact injury or fall.  Other symptoms can include:

  • difficulty bearing weight on your leg
  • bruising or swelling
  • paleness of the lower leg as a result of decreased blood flow
  • pain in the joint with or without weight bearing

Your doctor can provide a proper diagnosis by conducting imaging tests such as an X-ray  or possibly MRI or CT scan.

Tibial plateau fractures are classified based on location and severity.

Treatment

Treatment for tibial plateau fractures depends on the severity and type of break in the bone. For more minor injuries, non-surgical treatment options include:

  • resting the joint
  • splinting the knee and avoiding weight-bearing
  • taking pain medications
  • applying ice and elevating the extremity while the bone heals
Imaging studies including radiographs, CT scan and (sometimes) MRI are used to evaluate tibial plateau fractures.

If surgery is necessary, your surgeon will likely use screws and plates to properly align the bone. Surgical correction of tibial plateau fractures typically is able to restore function in the injured extremity, though the recovery process can be prolonged.

Recovery time varies for tibial plateau fractures depending on the severity of the injury and treatment method required, but return to normal activity is typically possible within 3-6 months.

Summary

A tibial plateau fracture is a break the top of the larger, lower leg bone - near the knee joint. If you experience trauma to your leg that results in sustained pain, swelling, and/or a limited range of motion of the knee joint , consult a qualified physician for proper diagnosis, treatment and a recovery plan. Seek immediate medical attention with severe pain or if any signs of decreased blood flow to the effected extremity.

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Cory Calendine, MD is an Orthopaedic Surgeon and founding partner of the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee at Williamson County Hospital in Franklin, TN. Dr. Calendine is an expert in Joint Replacement, specializing in Hip and Knee Surgery. From diagnosis through treatment, the Orthopaedic Surgical experts at the Bone and Joint Institute use the latest techniques and technology to improve care for people with musculoskeletal problems. For more information, please contact our office or schedule your appointment today.  

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