Background: Tibial shaft fractures are the third most common pediatric long bone fracture pattern. Historically, these fractures have been initially treated with closed reduction and casting (CRC). Recently, there has been an increasing trend toward surgical intervention as an initial treatment for these injuries. In an effort to better understand whether this trend is warranted, this study seeks to characterize the clinical and radiographic outcomes of a large number of children who underwent nonoperative treatment with CRC as their initial treatment for pediatric tibial shaft fractures at a single tertiary care center. Methods: Outcomes measured included final alignment, other procedures performed, length of time to full radiographic healing, and length of time in each method of immobilization before progressing to full weight-bearing status. Patients were separated by ages into the following cohorts during statistical analysis: 4 to 8 years, 9 to 12 years, and 13+ years. Differences between continuous variables were analyzed with independent-samples t tests. χ2tests were used to analyze differences in categorical variables. An α<0.05 was considered statistically significant. Results: A total of 137 patients met our inclusion criteria. The median age was 10.19 years (4.03 to 17.43). The average initial displacement among all age groups was 27.42% (±15.05%). After the initial intervention with CRC, all age groups demonstrated an average of <5 degrees of residual angulation and <20% of residual displacement. Complete radiographic healing was seen in 127 (92.7%) patients by 3 months. Loss of reduction requiring additional clinical intervention was seen in 30 (21.9%) patients with only 5% requiring surgical intervention, whereas malunion was seen in a total of 16 (11.7%) patients at the final visit. There were no cases of compartment syndrome or deep wound infection. Male and initial angulation were the only factors predictive of loss of reduction. Conclusion: Initial intervention with CRC is a safe and effective treatment for the majority of children in all age groups presenting with tibial shaft fractures demonstrating minimal angulation and displacement with surgical intervention being required in only 5% of patients. Further studies are warranted to elucidate the characteristics of patients who may benefit most from initial surgical intervention. Level of Evidence: Level III - retrospective study.
- closed reduction
- tibia shaft fractures