Three-Column Fixation for Complex Tibial Plateau Fractures : Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma

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Original Article

Three-Column Fixation for Complex Tibial Plateau Fractures

Luo, Cong-Feng MD, PhD; Sun, Hui MD; Zhang, Bo MD; Zeng, Bing-Fang MD

Author Information
Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma 24(11):p 683-692, November 2010. | DOI: 10.1097/BOT.0b013e3181d436f3



1) To introduce a computed tomography-based “three-column fixation” concept; and 2) to evaluate clinical outcomes (by using a column-specific fixation technique) for complex tibial plateau fractures (Schatzker classification Types V and VI).


Prospective cohort study.


Level 1 trauma center.


Twenty-nine cases of complex tibial plateau fractures were included. Based on routine x-ray and computed tomography images, all the fractures were classified as a “three-column fracture,” which means at least one separate fragment was found in lateral, medial, and posterior columns in the proximal tibia (Schatzker classification Types V and VI).


The patients were operated on in a “floating position” with a combined approach, an inverted L-shaped posterior approach combined with an anterior-lateral approach. All three columns of fractures were fixed.

Outcome Measures: 

Operative time, blood loss, quality of reduction and alignment, fracture healing, complications, and functional outcomes based on Hospital for Special Surgery score and lower-extremity measure were recorded.


All the cases were followed for average 27.3 months (range, 24-36 months). All the cases had satisfactory reduction except one case, which had a 4-mm stepoff at the anterior ridge of the tibial plateau postoperatively. No case of secondary articular depression was found. One case had secondary varus deformity, one case had secondary valgus deformity, and two cases of screw loosening occurred postoperatively. No revision surgery was performed. Two cases had culture-negative wound drainage. No infection was noted. The average radiographic bony union time and full weightbearing time were 13.1 weeks (range, 11-16 weeks) and 16.7 weeks (range, 12-24 weeks), respectively. The mean Short Form 36, Hospital for Special Surgery score, and lower-extremity measure at 24 months postoperatively were 89 (range, 80-98), 90 (range, 84-98), and 87 (range, 80-95), respectively. The average range of motion of the affected knee was 2.7° to 123.4° at 2 years after the operation.


Three-column fixation is a new fixation concept in treating complex tibial plateau fractures, which is especially useful for multiplanar fractures involving the posterior column. The combination of posterior and anterior-lateral approaches is a safe and effective way to have direct reduction and satisfactory fixation for such difficult tibial plateau fractures.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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