Acute treatment of segmental tibial fractures with the Ilizarov method

Injury. 2009 Mar;40(3):321-6. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2008.07.013. Epub 2009 Feb 25.


Objectives: We evaluated the results of acute application of the Ilizarov external fixator for segmental tibial fractures and also examined the experience with these special type fractures.

Methods: Twenty-four patients (19 males, 5 females) with a mean age of 37.8 years (range 22-66) with segmental tibial fractures were treated with the use of an Ilizarov type circular fixator. According to the categorisation of Melis et al., the fractures were types I, II, III and IV in seven, nine, five and three patients, respectively. Seven fractures were closed and 17 were open (9 grade IIIa, 5 grade IIIb, 2 grade II, 1 grade I according to the Gustilo classification). The mean time from the injury to surgery was 14 h (range 4-36). Eight patients with partial-thickness soft-tissue defects with no bone exposure were managed by split thickness skin grafting. Flap procedures were performed in four patients. All patients had good lower leg viability with a MESS score 6 and below. No patients had bone defects of 3 cm or more at the fracture level. Functional and bone results were made using the criteria proposed by ASAMI. The mean follow-up 28 months (range 12-70).

Results: We obtained excellent results in 20 and good results in 4 patients in terms of bone assessment. Functional results were excellent in 19 and good in 5 patients. All radiological evaluations showed normal alignment except in two patients. Both united with a residual procurvatum deformity. No rotational deformity was seen. Bone grafting was performed in one patient with a distal fracture. Complete union was achieved in all patients. None of the patients required amputation. There were no refractures after frame removal. Pin-tract infection occurred in 13 of the 24 patients. There were no incidents of chronic osteomyelitis secondary to pin-tract infection. The mean time for proximal fracture union was 36.4 weeks (range 10-78) and 39.8 weeks (range 12-80) for the distal fractures (p>0.05). Callus and consolidation occurred earlier posterolaterally. There were no implant failures.

Conclusion: Ilizarov external fixator is a successful method in the acute management of segmental tibial fractures. This method is particularly effective in the treatment of distal segmental fractures of the tibia when the distal segment is short. This method allows for control of complications by decreasing the need for new operations even in the presence of infection.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • External Fixators
  • Female
  • Fracture Healing / physiology
  • Fractures, Closed / diagnostic imaging
  • Fractures, Closed / physiopathology
  • Fractures, Closed / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Ilizarov Technique*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tibial Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Tibial Fractures / physiopathology
  • Tibial Fractures / surgery*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult