What is the tibial plateau?
The lower leg is made up of two bones, the tibia (shin bone) and the fibula (the calf bone). The tibial plateau is located at the top of the tibia, just below the knee cap, and is part of the knee joint. The tibial plateau helps to stabilize the knee and to support the weight of the body while walking or standing.
What is a tibial plateau fracture?
A tibial plateau fracture refers to a break in the bone at the tibial plateau. Because the tibial plateau is so important for stability when standing, fractures of the tibial plateau can affect the alignment of the knee, the stability of the knee, and range of motion in the knee. Since the joint is involved, treatment for a tibial plateau fracture is often more complicated than treatment for a break in a lower part of the leg.
What causes tibial plateau fractures?
Car accidents are the leading cause of tibial plateau fractures. Tibial plateau fractures from other causes are very rare.
How are tibial plateau fractures treated?
The treatment of a tibial plateau fracture depends on the extent of the fracture. In most cases, medication is given to reduce pain, swelling and fluid retention. If the break is simple with no crushed bones and little bone displacement, the injured knee will be immobilized in a cast for up to three months. The victim will not be able to walk during this time.
If bones are crushed or displaced, the bones will have to be stabilized before they can heal. Plates and screws may be surgically inserted to hold the bone in place. Healing can take several months and the injury victim will not be able to put any weight on the leg during this time.
Whether or not surgery is needed, the accident victim will require months of extensive physical therapy before resuming normal activities.
What are the complications associated with tibial plateau fractures?
The tibial plateau fracture can affect the cartilage, ligaments, nerves, menisci, or the popliteal artery in the knee. Potential complications include:
- Loss of range of motion
- Loss of function
- Loss of strength
- Edema (swelling caused by fluid retention)
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Myositis ossificans (muscle pain caused by bone deposits in the muscle)
- Pseudoarthrosis (the formation of a false joint formed by fibrous tissue)
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