Research Article| Volume 53, ISSUE 4, P1504-1509, April 2022

Is pin-plate overlap in tibial plateau fractures associated with increased infection rates?

Published:January 11, 2022DOI:


      • High energy tibial plateau fractures remain a difficult problem to treat despite advances in soft tissue management and fixation strategies.
      • Overlap between external fixator pin site and internal fixation in tibial plateau fractures is associated with increased rate of infections.
      • Surgeons treating high energy tibial plateau fractures should carefully consider definitive fixation construct when placing external fixation.



      Despite advances in the treatment of high energy proximal tibia fractures, including the utilization of staged management with external fixation, the infection rate remains high. Overlap between external fixator pin sites and definitive internal fixation has been proposed as a risk factor for infection.


      This retrospective study reviews 244 patients with staged knee-spanning external fixation followed by delayed definitive internal fixation at two separate level one trauma centers. Presence of pin-plate overlap as well as several other known risk factors for infection were recorded and measured to include open fractures, compartment syndrome, operative time and number of incisions. Development of deep infection was the primary outcome. Both univariate and multivariate statistics were applied to determine differences in rates of infection.


      65 (26.6%) patients had presence of pin-plate overlap while 179 (73.4%) patients had no overlap. There were no differences between overlapping and non-overlapping groups with respect to other infectious risk factors. Deep infection occurred in 34 (13.9%) total patients, 18 (27.7%) were in patients with pin-plate overlap and 16 (8.9%) in those without overlap. (P = 0.003; RR 3.01, 95% CI 1.51–4.76).


      This large, multicenter study demonstrated a statistically significant association between pin-plate overlap and the development of deep infection in tibial plateau fractures. On multivariate analysis, pin-plate overlap was identified as an independent risk factor for infection. When treating these complex injuries, surgeons should consider the definitive fixation construct when placing external fixation pins.


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