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Tibial nailing using a suprapatellar rather than an infrapatellar approach significantly reduces anterior knee pain postoperatively: a multicentre clinical trial

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The aim of this study was to compare the incidence of anterior knee pain after antegrade tibial nailing using suprapatellar and infrapatellar surgical approaches

Patients and Methods

A total of 95 patients with a tibial fracture requiring an intramedullary nail were randomized to treatment using a supra- or infrapatellar approach. Anterior knee pain was assessed at four and six months, and one year postoperatively, using the Aberdeen Weightbearing Test – Knee (AWT-K) score and a visual analogue scale (VAS) score for pain. The AWT-K is an objective patient-reported outcome measure that uses weight transmitted through the knee when kneeling as a surrogate for anterior knee pain.


A total of 53 patients were randomized to a suprapatellar approach and 42 to an infrapatellar approach. AWT-K results showed a greater mean proportion of weight transmitted through the injured leg compared with the uninjured leg when kneeling in the suprapatellar group compared with the infrapatellar group at all timepoints at all follow-up visits. This reached significance at four months for all timepoints except 30 seconds. It also reached significance at six months at 0 seconds, and for one year at 60 seconds.


The suprapatellar surgical approach for antegrade tibial nailing is associated with less anterior knee pain postoperatively compared with the infrapatellar approach

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2019;101-B:1138–1143

Correspondence should be sent to D.R.W. MacDonald; email:

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