INTRODUCTION: Posterior tibial plateau fractures (PTPF) have a high impact on functional outcome and the optimal treatment strategy is not well established. The goal of this study was to assess the relationship between trauma mechanism, fracture morphology and functional outcome in a large multicenter cohort and define possible strategies to improve the outcome.
METHODS: An international retrospective cohort study was conducted in five level-1 trauma centers. All consecutive operatively treated PTPF were evaluated. Preoperative imaging was reviewed to determine the trauma mechanism. Patient reported outcome was scored using the Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS).
RESULTS: A total of 145 tibial plateau fractures with posterior involvement were selected with a median follow-up of 32.2 months (IQR 24.1-43.2). Nine patients (6%) sustained an isolated posterior fracture. Seventy-two patients (49%) sustained a two-column fracture and three-column fractures were diagnosed in 64 (44%) patients. Varus trauma was associated with poorer outcome on the 'symptoms' (p = 0.004) and 'pain' subscales (p = 0.039). Delayed-staged surgery was associated with worse outcome scores for all subscales except 'pain'. In total, 27 patients (18%) were treated with posterior plate osteosynthesis without any significant difference in outcome.
CONCLUSIONS: Fracture morphology, varus trauma mechanism and delayed-staged surgery (i.e. extensive soft-tissue injury) were identified as important prognostic factors on postoperative outcome in PTPF. In order to assess possible improvement of outcome, future studies with routine preoperative MRI to assess associated ligamentous injury in tibial plateau fractures (especially for varus trauma) are needed.