Background: The toddler's fracture is a common pediatric nondisplaced spiral tibia fracture that is considered stable with a course of immobilization. However, there is no widely accepted type of immobilization, expected time to weight-bear, nor guidelines for radiographic monitoring. We aimed to compare immobilization type with respect to displacement and time to weight-bear, as well as determine the usefulness of follow-up radiographs.
Methods: A 3-year retrospective chart review of all children aged 9 months to 4 years who had a lower leg radiograph was performed. Those who fulfilled the criteria of a nondisplaced spiral tibia fracture, without fibula or physeal injury, were included in data collection, as were subjects with a negative initial radiograph that were treated presumptively as a toddler's fracture. Subjects were compared with regard to clinical and radiographic presentation; initial and subsequent immobilization; and clinical and radiographic follow-up.
Results: There were 606 subjects with lower leg radiographs, with 192 meeting study criteria: 117 (61%) with an initially visible fracture and 75 (39%) without. Of the 75 without initially visible fractures, 70 (93%) had robust periosteal reaction on follow-up, and none were diagnosed as anything further. At final follow-up, 184 (96%) were known to be weight-bearing, with 98% of these by 4 weeks. There was an earlier return to weight-bear for those initially treated in a boot compared with short leg cast (2.5 vs. 2.8 wk, P=0.04), but there were no other differences between immobilization type. No fractures displaced at any time point, including 7 that had received no immobilization. Patients received an average of 2.5 two-radiograph series; no radiographs were noted to affect treatment decisions in follow-up.
Conclusions: In our cohort, initial immobilization of a toddler's fracture in a boot may allow faster return to weight-bearing, but fractures were universally stable regardless of immobilization type, and nearly all regained weight-bearing by 4 weeks. This reliable healing suggests that immobilization type can be at the physician and family's discretion, and that radiographic follow-up may be unnecessary for treatment planning.
Level of evidence: Level III-this is a retrospective comparative study.