JOURNAL ARTICLE

Locking plate as a definitive external fixator for treating tibial fractures with compromised soft tissue envelop

Xu-sheng Qiu, Han Yuan, Xin Zheng, Jun-fei Wang, Jin Xiong, Yi-xin Chen
Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery 2014, 134 (3): 383-8
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INTRODUCTION: Tibial fractures with compromised soft tissue envelop may lead to significant complications. The optimal management of these injuries remains controversial. Recently, locking plate used as a definitive external fixator is attractive because it not only minimizes trauma to the soft tissues, but also overcomes the shortcomings of standard external fixators. The objective of this study was to evaluate the outcome of using locking plate as a definitive external fixator for treating tibial fractures with compromised soft tissue envelop.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: A prospective series of 12 consecutive tibial fractures with compromised soft tissue envelop were treated using locking plate as a definitive external fixator. Of these patients, six were Gustilo and Anderson type IIIA, three were type II and three were closed fractures (AO/ASIF soft tissue injury classification IC4: 2, IC5: 1). Time to union, nonunion, malunion, leg shortening, range of motion and function for the knee and ankle, deep infection, pin tract infections were evaluated.

RESULTS: The mean bone healing time was 37.8 weeks (range 20-56 weeks). Eventually, all of the fractures united. Most of the fractures healed in acceptable positions. There were no cases of deep infection. Pin tract infection was seen in 1 (8.3 %) patient, no loosening or failure of the external fixator was seen. At the most recent follow-up, the mean range of motion at the knee was extension 0° to flexion 135°, and the mean ankle range of motion was dorsi flexion 12° to plantar flexion 32°. All patients had excellent or good functional results and were fully weight bearing with a well-healed tibia at the final follow-up.

CONCLUSION: The locking plate used as a definitive external fixator provided a high rate of union. The patients experienced a comfortable clinical course, excellent knee and ankle joint motion, satisfactory functional results and an acceptable complication rate. However, the stiffness of external locked plating is not clear, therefore, clinical recommendation on its practical use to reduce the risk of implant failure still need to be determined.

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