A tibial plateau fracture is a break or crack in the top of the shin bone, or the tibia, where it meets the knee. Most trivial plateau fractures are the result of blunt force to the leg. This can include sports injuries from skiing or football, or trauma like a car accident. Tibial plateau fractures have also been associated with osteoporosis and mineral deficiency.

Symptoms of tibial plateau fractures include pain in or around the upper part of your shin, bruising and swelling, and difficulty bearing weight on your leg. You may also experience paleness in the leg, as a result of decreased blood flow, and in some severe cases, the bone may actually break through the skin.

Tibial plateau fractures are broken into six different classifications. This acts as a guide for proper diagnosis and treatment. The degree of impact indicates the severity of the fracture. The types get increasingly more severe. Joseph Schatzker, MD, classified tibial plateau fractures in the following way:

  • Schatzker Type I: Lateral split fracture
  • Schatzker Type II: Lateral split-depressed fracture
  • Schatzker Type III: Lateral pure depression fracture 
  • Schatzker Type IV: Medial plateau fracture 
  • Schatzker Type V: Bicondylar fracture
  • Schatzker Type VI: Metaphyseal-diaphyseal disassociation

The first three types are classified as lateral tibia plateau fractures, meaning they occur on the lateral side. Type 1 is a wedge-shaped fracture that is most commonly seen in young adults as a result of low-energy injuries, such as a simple fall. Type II is a combined cleavage and compression fracture that is typically observed in older patients who suffer from osteoporosis. This is the common type. Type III is a compression fracture that is also most frequently seen in older patients who have osteoporosis. 

Treatment for lateral tibial plateau fractures include non-surgical and surgical treatment options. Nonsurgical treatments may be recommended if the fracture is small and the joint is still stable.  Non-surgical treatments prescribed by your doctor include resting your knee, splinting your knee and not bearing weight on it, and applying ice as needed.

If the fracture is severe enough, your doctor may recommend surgery. In this case, the surgeon will utilize screws and plates to realign the bone. The skin is incised laterally, and the fractured fragments are reduced, then realigned with the screws and plates. The screws and plates are typically left in the patient for life, but they can be removed once the bones heal.
If you experience any degree of trauma to your leg that results in pain, swelling, and limited range of motion in your knee, schedule a consultation with Arlington Orthopedics Association. We have a variety of impressive doctors who specialize in knee treatment and can help you with the best course of action.