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Closed reduction in the treatment of tibial tubercle fractures.

Injury 2021 June
INTRODUCTION: Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) is considered the standard care for displaced tibial tubercle fractures, but closed reduction and internal fixation (CRIF) can also be successful. Our aim was to compare outcomes between ORIF and CRIF for tibial tubercle fractures.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Children younger than 18 years presenting for a tibial tubercle fracture at a single institution. The main outcomes were operative details (blood loss, tourniquet time, operative time) and complications. Follow-up of at least one month was required.

RESULTS: 98 fractures from 95 patients were included. Follow-up averaged 8.7 months. 49% of the fractures had intraarticular involvement (type III). The most common associated injuries were patellar tendon tears and compartment syndrome, occurring in 10.2% and 3.1% of patients, respectively. No meniscal or ligamentous injuries were encountered. ORIF was performed for 81 fractures and CRIF for 17. Both groups were similar regarding sex, age, weight, and follow-up duration (P>0.4). No tourniquet was used for CRIF, while the majority of ORIF cases utilized a tourniquet for an average of 50.6 minutes. Operative blood loss was 31mL less in CRIF (P<0.0001), and the procedure of CRIF was 23.3 minutes shorter than ORIF (P=0.0003). All cases, except 1 fracture treated with ORIF, achieved union. The complication rate was similar in both groups (P=0.79). At final follow-up, patients from both groups had favorable outcomes, with normal knee range of motion and angulation, gait, and quadriceps strength on exam.

DISCUSSION: CRIF is often overlooked in the surgical treatment of displaced tibial tubercle fractures. It is a less invasive treatment option for such fractures and has advantages such as less bleeding, avoiding a tourniquet, and shorter operative duration. Patients treated with either ORIF and CRIF healed with similar rates of complications and had a satisfactory outcome. Given the rarity of associated meniscal or ligamentous injuries, open reduction to visualize the joint surface might not be needed for most patients. The two most common associated injuries, patellar tendon tears and compartment syndrome, can be preliminarily diagnosed pre-operatively.

CONCLUSION: Closed reduction could be initially attempted for tibial tubercle fractures, even ones with intraarticular extension.

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