The tibia is the shin bone and the fibula is the calf bone. Of the two bones, the tibia is the weight-bearing bone. It is the second longest bone in the body, extending from the knee to the ankle.
The tibia has a higher incidence of fractures than any other long bone. Tibia fractures are considered a medical emergency. Traumatic fractures of the tibia fibula can occur anywhere along the length of the bones. The types of fractures are:
- open or closed
- stable or unstable
- displaced or undisplaced
- angulated or not angulated
With a closed tibia fibula fracture, not only is there intense pain, there is swelling and discoloration from the large amounts of blood that can flow from a fractured bone and damaged blood vessels.
Tibia Fibula Fracture Treatment
Treatment of a tibia fibula fracture depends on the whether it is closed or open. In a closed fracture, if the two fragments are close to alignment, the orthopedist may manually reduce the fracture and immobilize for 12 – 16 weeks in a plaster cast or a removable plastic cast walker.
An open fracture is classified according to the extent of broken skin, and whether there is significant soft tissue damage, blood vessel disruption, or contamination. If the tibia fibula fracture is splintered, greatly displaced, or open, the fracture will need to be fixed surgically with one of the following methods:
- pins, screws, metal plates, or wires
- a metal rod down the center of the bone
- an external fixator
You can expect months of physical therapy to regain the ability to walk. During the time you are immobilized, an AV Impulse system may be used to increase blood flow through the leg to prevent blood clots and reduce swelling. It also works the muscles in a simulated walking motion.
Tibia Fibula Complications
Fracture healing is an intricate process. It takes times because of poor blood supply in some areas of the bone. Severe open fractures have a high incidence of complications, including:
- infection which may result in gangrene
- displaced fragments, particularly in oblique and spiral fractures
- artery or nerve damage
- limp due to imperfect alignment or rotational position, possibly one leg shorter
- obvious disfigurement
- slow union as a result of severity of the fracture or poor blood supply to one fragment
- loss of ROM in the knee, ankle or foot, usually caused by associated joint, soft tissue, or vascular injury
- smokers are 8 times more likely to experience nonunion in tibia fibula fractures
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