Tibia and Fibula Fracture
About Tibia and Fibula
The tibia and fibula are the two long bones of the leg that run parallel to each other.
The tibia is the larger one and it is the most often fractured long bone in the body due to its superficial position in the leg.
A tibial or a fibular shaft fracture usually happens when more pressure is put on the bone than it can handle or when excessive rotational stresses are applied.
Causes for Tibia and Fibula Fracture
A broken leg is typically caused by a major force due to high-energy collision such as
- car crash
- motorcycle crash
- sport injuries (skiing, soccer, tennis, basketball and sports that imply much twisting or cutting)
Tibia and Fibula Fracture Symptoms
Symptoms of a broken leg include:
- Leg instability
- Difficulty or total inability to walk and bear weight on the leg
- Deformity in the lower part of the leg
- Bone poking over the skin at the fracture site
- Loss of feeling in the foot
Types of Broken Leg Fractures
Tibial Shaft Fractures
Tibia fractures vary depending on the force that caused the break.
A tibial fracture can be:
- Stable fracture, when the pieces of bone still line up correctly
- Displaced fracture, when bones are out of alignment
- Open fracture, when the bone punctures the skin
- Tibial plateau fracture: fracture of the tibia at the knee joint
- Ankle fracture: fracture of the ankle joint
A fibula fracture may occur:
- around the ankle (lateral malleolus fracture)
- near the knee (fibular head fracture)
- in the middle of the leg (shaft fracture)
Other types of fracture may be:
- avulsion fracture, when a small part of the bone gets pulled off
- stress fracture which is due to repetitive injury
Tibial and Fibular Fracture Diagnosis
The orthopedic surgeon will perform a physical examination to look for signs and symptoms of a fracture and will ask for your medical history.
X-rays or CT scan may be ordered to have more precise imaging of the break.
Types of Treatment
Treatment for a Tibial Shaft Fracture or Fibula fracture depends on the type of fracture and how severe it is.
Closed or simple fractures may not need surgery.
The orthopedic surgeon will align the bones in the correct position without surgery (closed reduction). Then a cast or a splint will be put on your leg to prevent movements so the fracture can heal.
Patients may need crutches and to walk without putting weight on the broken leg.
Nonsurgical treatment may be recommended also for patients who:
- have overall health problems
- are less active
Surgical treatment may be recommended for certain types of fractures, such as:
- Open fractures
- Fractures that have not healed with nonsurgical treatment
- Fractures with many bone fragments and a large degree of displacement
In this procedure, called Open Reduction and Internal Fixation ORIF, the orthopedic surgeon will perform invasive surgery on the bones.
The bone fragments will first be repositioned (reduced) into their normal alignment; then the surgeon will use plates, screws or rods to hold the broken portions of the bone together.
The fixations can be internal (under the skin) or external, (attached to a bar outside the skin). Usually, only most severe open fractures require external fixations. With this method, the metal screws or pins project outside the skin and help to keep the bones in place.
Broken Leg Recovery Time
Recovery from a broken fibula may take six weeks or longer, while tibial shaft fracture may take 4 to 6 months to heal completely.
Managing pain is very important for a faster recovering.
Opioids, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants topical pain medications may be prescribed.
Rehabilitation and physical therapy are important parts of healing from a broken tibia or fibula because patients will lose muscle strength in the injured area.
Exercises will help to restore normal muscle strength, joint motion, and flexibility.
A physical therapist may encourage leg motion early in the recovery period.
If the orthopaedic surgeon agrees, patients will be even allowed to put as much as weight as possible on the leg right after surgery.
But, in any case, it will not be possible to put full weight on the leg until the fracture has started to heal.
Prof. Nicola Portinaro’s experience
Prof. Portinaro is has been treating broken legs for more than 30 years.
He has personally performed more than 700 surgeries both in adults and child with different techniques.