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Minimally invasive plate osteosynthesis of distal tibial fractures is technically feasible and may be advantageous in that it minimizes soft tissue compromise and devascularization of the fracture fragments. The technique involves open reduction and internal fixation of the associated fibular fracture when present, followed by temporary external fixation of the tibia until swelling has resolved. Subsequent limited, but open reduction and internal fixation of the articular fragments when displaced followed by minimally invasive plate osteosynthesis of the tibia utilizing precontoured tubular plates and percutaneously placed cortical screws is performed. The semitubular plate was chosen because it adapts more easily to the bone contours than the stiffer small fragment LC-DCP does.
Twenty patients (age 25–59 years) with unstable intraarticular or open extruarticular fractures have been treated including 12 A-type, 1 B-type and 7 C-type fractures according to the AO classification. Two fractures were open (both Gustilo Type I). Closed soft tissue injury was graded according to Tscherne with 3 type CO, 7 type C1, 7 type C2 and 1 type C3. All fractures healed without the need for a second operation. Time to full weight-bearing averaged 10.7 weeks (range 8–16 weeks). Two fractures healed with >5° varus alignment and 2 fractures healed with >10° recurvatum. No patient had a deep infection. The average range of motion in the ankle for dorsiflexion was 14° (range 0–30°) and plantar flexion averaged 42° (range 20–50°).
With longer follow-up and a larger number of patients, the authors feel confident that the minimally invasive technique for plate osteosynthesis for the treatment of distal tibial fractures will prove to be a feasible and worthwhile method of stabilization while avoiding the severe complications associated with the more standard methods of internal or external fixation of those fractures.
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