The incidence of soft tissue injury in operative tibial plateau fractures. A magnetic resonance imaging analysis of 103 patients

Michael J. Gardner, Shahan Yacoubian, David Geller, Michael Suk, Douglas Mintz, Hollis Potter, David L. Helfet, Dean G. Lorich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

185 Scopus citations


Objectives: The goal of this study was to determine the incidence of injury to soft tissue structures of the knee in tibial plateau fractures scheduled for surgery. Design: Prospective cohort. Setting: Level I academic medical center. Patients/Participants: One hundred three consecutive patients with acute tibial plateau fractures indicated for operative intervention. Intervention: Standard x-ray examinations, including anteroposterior, lateral, and oblique views, were performed in the emergency department. Subsequently all patients had magnetic resonance imaging performed. The Schatzker and AO/OTA classifications were used to classify each fracture pattern based solely on the x-rays. Soft tissue injuries were assessed by magnetic resonance imaging. Main Outcome Measurements: Fifteen categories of injury were determined as positive or negative on each magnetic resonance imaging, which included tears of the cruciates, collateral ligaments, menisci, and posterolateral corner. Results: The overall incidence of injury to soft tissues was higher than previously reported. Only 1 patient (1%) in the series had complete absence of any soft tissue injury. Seventy-nine patients (77%) sustained a complete tear or avulsion of 1 or more cruciate or collateral ligaments. Ninety-four patients (91 %) had evidence of lateral meniscus pathology. Forty-five patients (44%) had medial meniscus tears. Seventy patients (68%) had tears of 1 or more of the posterolateral corner structures of the knee. The most frequent fracture pattern was a lateral plateau split-depression (Schatzker II) (60%). No pure depression injuries (Schatzker III, AO/OTA 41-B2) were seen. Conclusions: The incidence of complete ligamentous or meniscal disruption associated with operative tibial plateau fractures was higher than previously reported. Though the clinical importance of injury to each of these structures is unknown, the treating surgeon should be aware that a variety of soft tissue injuries are common in these fractures. In addition, all fractures had at least 1 cortical split visible on magnetic resonance imaging, implying that pure depression patterns are very rare or may not exist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-84
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Trauma
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Operative intervention
  • Soft tissue injury
  • Tibial plateau fracture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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