The results of conservative (mainly, functional bracing) and operative treatment (mainly, plate fixation) have been compared in a retrospective study of 170 displaced noncomminutive tibial shaft fractures. The characteristics of the fractures in both treatment groups showed no significant differences. The follow-up analysis revealed no statistical differences in outcome between the two methods. However, because of the many factors analyzed and the restricted number of patients studied, it is impossible to compare all factors independently. Surgical treatment resulted in a higher rate of complications (such as implant failure, osteitis, and refracture) and a longer total hospitalization time. Conservative treatment showed a longer duration of fracture healing and a higher rate of malalignment. Malalignments of up to 10° with no adverse effects have been seen so far. In conservative treatment, two fracture types were identified with a higher rate of malalignment: short oblique isolated tibial fractures and fully dislocated transverse crural fractures. Conservative therapy is favored, because there is less discomfort for the patient and the treatment is cost contained.
From the Division of Surgery at Leiden University Hospital, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Reprint requests to A. J. den Outer, M.D., Rijnoord Hospital, Department of Surgery, Delftzichtweg 2, 2402 NB Alphen a/d Rijn, The Netherlands.
Received: August 16, 1988.