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J Trauma. 2007 Jan;62(1):174-83.

Two-ring hybrid external fixation of distal tibial fractures: a review of 47 cases.

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From the Department of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery, University Hospital of Oulu, Oulu, Finland.



The healing of a metaphyseal fracture line is a major problem in cases of distal tibial fracture treated with external fixation.


Forty-seven distal tibial fractures treated with two-ring Ilizarov hybrid external fixation (16 AO/OTA type A and 31 type C, 10 open) were followed up. Fracture reduction and union time was evaluated and IOWA and RAND 36-Item Health Survey scores were used to assess functional outcome.


Thirty-five fractures united uneventfully in a median time of 20 weeks, but 12 fractures needed additional procedures because of delayed union. According to univariate analysis, the risk factors for a longer time needed for fracture union were translational displacement and current smoking, and the risk factors for reoperation because of delayed union translational displacement fibular fracture fixation, and the number of cigarettes smoked per day. In multivariate analysis, translational displacement was a risk factor for both longer time to fracture union and reoperation and fibular fracture fixation was a risk factor for reoperation. If the translational displacement was less than 3 mm, the reoperation rate was 6%, whereas if the displacement was more than 3 mm, it was 83%. Reoperation was performed on 50% of the patients who underwent fibular fixation and on 15% of the patients who did not undergo fibular fixation. There were only marginal decreases in the range of motion and arthritis scores in the AO/OTA fracture types other than type C3. There were no significant differences in RAND 36 scores between the general Finnish population aged 18 to 64 years and our patients.


Hybrid external fixation of distal tibial fractures is associated with delayed union, which is closely related to the degree of residual translational displacement after reduction. Fixation of an associated fibular fracture does not help to achieve better contact in the tibial fracture and increases the risk of delayed union.

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