Three-column classification system for tibial plateau fractures: What the orthopedic surgeon wants to know

Wesley N. Bryson, Eric J. Fischer, Jackw Jennings, Travis J. Hillen, Michael Friedman, Jonathan C. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Recent orthopedic surgical literature emphasizes a three-column approach to understand and guide the treatment of tibial plateau fractures. This three-column classification system published in 2010 relies on preoperative CT images to depict injuries to the medial, lateral, and posterior columns of the tibial plateau and improves surgical outcomes in complex tibial plateau fractures with coronal fracture planes and posterior plateau fracture fragments requiring dorsal plating. Tibial plateau fracture classification systems traditionally used by radiologists and orthopedic surgeons, including the Schatzker and the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Osteosynthesefragen– Orthopedic Trauma Association (AO-OTA) classification systems, rely on findings at anteroposterior radiography and lack the terminology to accurately characterize fractures in the coronal plane involving the posterior tibial plateau. Incorporating elements from the contemporary three-column classification system into radiology reports will enhance radiologists’ descriptions of these injuries. It is essential for radiologists to understand the role of clinical assessment and the pertinent imaging findings taken into consideration by orthopedic surgeons in their management of these injuries. This understanding includes familiarity with injury patterns and how they relate to mechanism of injury, patient demographics, and underlying pertinent comorbidities. Evaluating findings on initial radiographs is the basis of tibial plateau fracture diagnosis. Additional information provided by preoperative cross-sectional imaging, including two-dimensional and three-dimensional CT and MRI in specific circumstances, aids in the identification of specific softtissue injuries and fracture morphologies that influence surgical management. These specific fracture morphologies and soft-tissue injuries should be identified and communicated to orthopedic surgeons for optimal patient management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-155
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


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