The treatment of complex tibial shaft fractures by the Ilizarov method

P. A. L. Foster, S. B. Barton, S. C. E. Jones, R. J. M. Morrison, S. Britten


We report on the use of the Ilizarov method to treat 40 consecutive fractures of the tibial shaft (35 AO 42C fractures and five AO 42B3 fractures) in adults. There were 28 men and 12 women with a mean age of 43 years (19 to 81). The series included 19 open fractures (six Gustilo grade 3A and 13 grade 3B) and 21 closed injuries. The mean time from injury to application of definitive Ilizarov frame was eight days (0 to 35) with 36 fractures successfully uniting without the need for any bone-stimulating procedure. The four remaining patients with nonunion healed with a second frame. There were no amputations and no deep infections. None required intervention for malunion. The total time to healing was calculated from date of injury to removal of the frame, with a median of 166 days (mean 187, (87 to 370)). Minor complications included snapped wires in two patients and minor pin-site infections treated with oral antibiotics in nine patients (23%). Clinical scores were available for 32 of the 40 patients at a median of 55 months (mean 62, (26 to 99)) post-injury, with ‘good’ Olerud and Molander ankle scores (median 80, mean 75, (10 to 100)), ‘excellent’ Lysholm knee scores (median 97, mean 88, (29 to 100)), a median Tegner activity score of 4 (mean 4, (0 to 9)) (comparable to ‘moderately heavy labour / cycling and jogging’) and Short Form-12 scores that exceeded the mean of the population as a whole (median physical component score 55 (mean 51, (20 to 64)), median mental component score 57 (mean 53, (21 to 62)). In conclusion, the Ilizarov method is a safe and reliable way of treating complex tibial shaft fractures with a high rate of primary union.


  • No benefits in any form have been received or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

  • Received February 1, 2012.
  • Accepted September 5, 2012.
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