Tibial Shaft Fractures

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The tibia is one of the slowest bones in the body to heal, taking typically three to four months to do so.

It is also one of the bones that is most vulnerable to what is known as non-union.

It is vital therefore that these fractures are treated optimally to avoid any further delay in the healing process. Furthermore, ensuring that the tibia is restored to something very close to its original shape will reduce the chances of long-term problems.

Key Points — Diagnosis and Management

These points will be discussed in more detail when you meet your surgeon.

  • Some tibial fractures are appropriate for treating using a cast. This cast will initially be a ‘long leg’ type cast, passing above the knee down to the foot.
  • If cast treatment is selected, frequent x-rays are required to ensure that the position of the healing tibia remains satisfactory.
  • For many tibial fractures, operative fixation may be a better option. The most commonly used fixation technique is known as intramedullary nailing. This involves passing a titanium rod down the inside of the tibia bone.
  • Other less frequently used fixation methods include plate-and-screw fixation and external fixation.

Key Points — Surgical Treatment

  • The surgery will be performed under a general or spinal anaesthetic.
  • Most patients will remain an inpatient for a few days after their surgery.
  • You are likely to require the assistance of crutches for many weeks.
  • Return to heavy work or sports will not be until the fracture has healed (3–4 months or more).


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