We have reviewed our recent results with functional bracing of tibial shaft fractures in adults in order to define its role in management. We also analysed several parameters of these fractures to discover those which influence healing. A total of 780 tibial fractures treated in prefabricated functional braces were followed to union; shortening of less than 10 mm and angulation of less than 5 degrees in any plane were our parameters for successful treatment. The average time before applying a brace was 3.8 weeks for closed fractures and 5.2 weeks for open ones. Closed fractures healed in an average of 17.4 weeks and open fractures in an average of 21.7 weeks, 90% of them with 10 mm of shortening or less. Varus angulation and posterior angulation were the most common deformities encountered at union. There were 20 nonunions (2.5%) and 46 braces were discontinued during treatment. We found no association between fracture healing and the patient's age, the mechanism of injury or the fracture location. The degree of soft tissue injury appeared to have most influence on the speed of fracture healing. Fracture comminution and initial displacement, the condition of the fibula and the time from injury to bracing also appeared to affect the speed of union.
- © 1989 British Editorial Society of Bone and Joint Surgery