Comparison of Short-Leg and Long-Leg Casts for the Treatment of Distal Third Tibial Shaft Fractures in Children

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Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics


Background:Long-leg casts (LLCs) are an established treatment for pediatric tibial shaft fractures including fractures involving the distal third. There is a paucity of literature assessing the use of short-leg cast (SLC) for tibial shaft fractures. The purpose of this study was to determine if SLC were as effective as LLC for the treatment of pediatric distal third tibial shaft fractures.Methods:A retrospective review was conducted on consecutive distal third tibial shaft fractures treated at a tertiary pediatric hospital from 2013 to 2018. Exclusion criteria included midshaft and proximal fractures of the tibia, distal fractures that violated the tibial physis or plafond, and pathologic fractures. We compared primary outcomes of time to weight-bearing, time to union, and final angulation between LLC and SLC groups.Results:Eighty-five patients aged 5 to 17 years (mean age: 9.2±3.2 y) met inclusion criteria, including 50 LLC and 35 SLC patients. Time to weight-bearing for SLC (3.3±0.6 wk) was shorter compared with LLC (6.4±0.7 wk, P<0.0001). Overall, fractures treated with SLC had a shorter time to the union (7.4±0.9 wk) compared with LLC (9.0±0.9 wk, P=0.026) without statistical differences in final angulation at the time of union. There was a higher percentage of cast complications in the LLC treatment group (12%) compared with SLC (6%).Conclusions:SLC demonstrated earlier time to weight-bearing and shorter time to fracture union when compared with LLC. Surgeons should consider SLC and early weight-bearing for the treatment of distal third tibial shaft fractures in children.Level of Evidence:Level III-retrospective comparative study.

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Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins

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