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Patient function continues to improve over the first five years following tibial plateau fracture managed by open reduction and internal fixation

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Tibial plateau fractures are serious injuries about the knee that have the potential to affect patients’ long-term function. To our knowledge, this is the first study to use patient-reported outcomes (PROs) with a musculoskeletal focus to assess the long-term outcome, as compared to a short-term outcome baseline, of tibial plateau fractures treated using modern techniques.


In total, 102 patients who sustained a displaced tibial plateau fracture and underwent operative repair by one of three orthopaedic traumatologists at a large, academic medical centre and had a minimum of five-year follow-up were identified. Breakdown of patients by Schatzker classification is as follows: two (1.9%) Schatzker I, 54 (50.9%) Schatzker II, two (1.9%) Schatzker III, 13 (12.3%) Schatzker IV, nine (8.5%) Schatzker V, and 26 (24.5%) Schatzker VI. Follow-up data obtained included: Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) or Numeric Rating Scale (NRS) pain scores, Short Musculoskeletal Functional Assessment (SMFA), and knee range of movement (ROM). Data at latest follow-up were then compared to 12-month data using a paired t-test.


Patient-reported functional outcomes as assessed by overall SMFA were statistically significantly improved at five years (p < 0.001) compared with one-year data from the same patients. Patients additionally reported an improvement in the Standardized Mobility Index (p < 0.001), Standardized Emotional Index (p < 0.001), as well as improvement in Standardized Bothersome Index (p = 0.003) between the first year and latest follow-up. Patient-reported pain and knee ROM were similar at five years to their one-year follow-up. In total, 15 of the patients had undergone subsequent orthopaedic surgery for their knees at the time of most recent follow-up. Of note, only one patient had undergone knee arthroplasty following plateau fixation related to post-traumatic osteoarthritis (OA).


Knee pain following tibial plateau fracture stabilizes at one year. However, PROs continue to improve beyond one year following tibial plateau fracture, at least in a statistical sense, if not also clinically. Patients displayed statistical improvement across nearly all SMFA index scores at their minimum five-year follow-up compared with their one-year follow-up.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(5):632–637.

Correspondence should be sent to K. A. Egol; email:

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