Tibial plateau fractures: definition, demographics, treatment rationale, and long-term results of closed traction management or operative reduction

J Orthop Trauma. 1987;1(2):97-119.


Results of a decade of experience with 988 tibial plateau fractures are presented. Maximum plateau depression was measured on initial and follow-up x-ray studies, and knee instability was clinically evaluated to identify minor and major fractures as a guide to management. Demographic, treatment, and complication data were gathered prospectively in 753 fractures. Four hundred thirty-seven "major" tibial plateau fractures (44% of cases) were treated operatively; the remainder were treated by traction. Three hundred twenty patients who sustained only a plateau fracture were followed from 1 to 10 years, with an average of 3.7 years. Nonsurgical treatment included Buck's traction (89% of closed treatment cases) or a "knee exerciser" device utilizing skeletal traction in a Hodgson-Pearson apparatus. Early intermittent passive and active knee motion was encouraged. The complication rate of traction was 8%. The complication rate in operated patients was 19%, much of which was due to infection. Methods for objective and subjective scoring of both traction and operative results were developed and utilized. Results show that anatomic reduction of plateau fractures, in addition to early motion, is a major factor contributing to successful management of this potentially disabling injury.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Transplantation
  • Casts, Surgical
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tibial Fractures / classification
  • Tibial Fractures / diagnosis
  • Tibial Fractures / surgery
  • Tibial Fractures / therapy*
  • Traction