Primary total knee arthroplasty in tibial plateau fractures: Literature review and our institutional experience

Published:February 06, 2021DOI:


      • In elderly patients, treatment of displaced proximal tibia fractures presents an high rate of failure because of poor bone quality.
      • Acute total knee arthroplasty for tibial plateau fractures in the elderly may overcome fracture healing problems and ensure a faster recovery.
      • Acute knee replacement is a demanding surgery, similarly to prosthetic revision, and should be reserved for selected patients and experienced surgeons.
      • Previous series showed encouraging results and reported complications are rare but higher than elective knee arthroplasty.



      Displaced proximal tibia fractures in the elderly may be very difficult to manage. If osteosynthesis represents the standard of care in the younger patients, in the aged population this solution is controversial because a significant failure rate has been reported after internal fixation. Moreover, osteoarthritis progression following tibial plateau fractures is common, often requiring a subsequent total knee arthroplasty (TKA). In recent years, in order to overcome the fracture healing problems and to allow immediate full weight bearing, primary TKA after tibial plateau fractures in elderly patients has gained popularity.

      Material and methods

      from 2015 to 2019, 11 tibial plateau fractures in elderly patients with pre-existing osteoarthritis were treated with a primary TKA. Age, gender, mechanism of trauma, pre-operative autonomy level, fractures classification, degree of osteoarthritis and intraoperative data (ligamentous stability and type of implant) were collected. After a mean follow-up of 28 months, Knee Society Score (KSS), post-operative autonomy level and Forgotten Joint Score (FJS) were evaluated. The radiological assessment (signs of loosening, limb axis and patellar height indices) and complications were also recorded.


      according to fracture type and ligamentous competence, 6 cases of posterior-stabilized (PS) design and 5 cases of semi-constrained TKA were implanted. At the final follow up, mean KSS knee score was 83±16 and mean KSS functional score was 74±15. Mean pre-operative autonomy level assessed with the Parker scale, was significantly higher than the post-operative one (7.5±1.4 vs 5.6 ± 1.3). Mean FJS was 66 ± 14. No lines of radiolucency or limb malalignment were found at the final radiological follow-up. One major complication was recorded: one acute periprosthetic infection. One patient reported a periprosthetic femoral fracture after 26 months.


      Based on our and results and those reported on literature, primary TKA is a suitable option in case of tibial plateau fractures in elderly patients with pre-existing osteoarthritis and poor bone quality, in which osteosynthesis outcome may be poor. Unlike ORIF, primary TKA may allow immediate weightbearing and a faster recovery. Nevertheless, it is a demanding surgery with a significant complications rate and should be reserved for selected patients and experienced surgeons.


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