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Ask the Docs | Tibial Plateau Fracture

Ask the Docs
Posted April 5, 2007

  • AthletiCo Bulls' Injury Report

    Patient Question:
    Over the past few months I have been experiencing pain below my left knee while running. After a collision in my basketball game last week, I heard a “pop” and experienced a shooting pain through my knee and down my shin. My knee is now extremely swollen. My family doctor ruled out major ligament damage and has sent me to get X-rays and a MRI. What could this be?

    Dr. Walter Virkus:
    First off, I would recommend that you go see an orthopaedic physician who specializes in sports medicine. Based on your description of the injury and your symptoms, you may have experienced a tibial plateau fracture. This type of fracture occurs at the top of your shinbone, and involves the cartilage surface of the knee joint. Due to the nature of this fracture’s relationship with your knee joint, there is a high risk for a minor (non-displaced) fracture turning into a major (displaced) fracture.

    Non-displaced fractures occur when there is a crack in the bone, but the bone stays in proper alignment and does not separate. A displaced fracture is a more severe case in which the crack in the bone separates and misaligns the joint. This creates an unstable knee joint.

    Dr. Virkus
    Dr. Virkus
    Treatment Options:
    Treatment varies significantly depending on the severity of your fracture. If you have a simple non-displaced fracture, your orthopaedic physician will prescribe a treatment plan of 6 to 12 weeks of avoiding weight-bearing activity through the use of crutches. You will be encouraged to maintain motion in the knee joint and not allow it to stiffen as this may impair recovery. If the non-displaced fracture is close enough to advancing to a displaced fracture, your physician will likely put you in a bendable brace. Casts are rarely used for these fractures because the knee gets very stiff.

    Treatment for a severe displaced fracture often involves surgery. After the swelling in the knee subsides, the physician will perform surgery to place a plate and screws into the tibia to realign the bone. This is a longer healing process because of the severity of the injury, and can involve wearing a brace or cast and the use of crutches for up to 3 or 4 months.

    For more information about Dr. Virkus and the Sports Medicine physicians of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, call 877.MD BONES or visit them online at www.rushortho.com.

    The information contained on this page is intended only for general public education, and is not intended to serve as a substitute for direct medical advice. This information should not replace necessary medical consultations with a qualified orthopaedic physician.



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