Tibia fractures: What should be fixed?

Joe Eric Gordon, June C. O'Donnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to provide a summary of the absolute and the relative surgical indications for both closed and operative treatment of tibial shaft fractures. Methods: A literature review of the pertinent literature was undertaken, and a limited number of the most significant papers are cited. Recommendations are provided for fractures that are most likely to need surgical intervention and relative indications for fractures that may benefit from surgical stabilization. Results: Successful closed treatment can be achieved either by casting and conventional 3-point molding or by utilizing the Sarmiento technique of casting. Either technique depends on soft tissues to maintain bony alignment. The reported results are significantly improved after surgical stabilization after open tibial shaft fractures and tibial shaft fractures associated with ipsilateral femoral fractures. Relative indications for surgical stabilization include comminuted fractures, displaced fractures with an intact fibula, and displaced fractures in adolescents. Compartment syndrome remains the most significant early complication encountered when treating tibial shaft fractures in children and adolescents by either closed or surgical methods and should be considered in the face of pain out of proportion to the injury or increasing narcotic requirements. Conclusions: Tibial fractures are one of the more common injuries treated by orthopedic surgeons. Although most can be treated by closed techniques, certain fractures benefit significantly from surgical stabilization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S52-S61
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012


  • Closed reduction
  • External fixation
  • Fracture
  • Open fracture
  • Pediatric
  • Tibia
  • Titanium elastic nails


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