What is a Proximal Tibia Fracture?
A proximal Tibia Fracture is a break of the upper end of the shin bone (tibia). In anatomy, the word ‘proximal’ means closer to the midline of the body while ‘distal’ is the word used to describe injuries that are further away from the midline of the body. These fractures are a fairly common injury of the lower leg, particularly in children. Tibia fractures are generally classified as being either a high-energy fracture or a low-energy fracture. Common complications to this injury are damage to blood vessels and nerves.
What Causes a Proximal Tibia Fracture?
The causes of a broken tibia are from a force being applied to the shin that is stronger than the bone or bones are able to withstand. The cause of the fracture will be different for a high or low energy fracture. These causes of a high-energy Tibia Fracture tend to be:
- Motor vehicle accident
- Direct trauma to the tibia
- High impact and contact sports
The causes of low-energy fracture typically are:
- Torsion injuries
- Indirect trauma resulting in a twisting (spiral) force on the bone
- Medical condition that lead to a weakening of bones can make one susceptible to fractures
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What are Proximal Tibia Fracture Symptoms?
The symptoms of a Tibia Fracture may be one or all of the following:
- Severe pain in the lower leg
- Swelling, erythema (reddening of skin) and warmth of the skin
- Possible visible deformity of lower leg
- Pale color and a cool sensation of the foot if blood vessels were damaged compromising the blood supply
- A ‘pins and needles’ sensation that may extend down the leg and into the feet and toes if nerves are involved
- Loss of ability to bear weight on the lower leg
- A low-grade fever as the body’s response to stave off infection
Treatment for Fractures of the Proximal Tibia
The only way to definitively confirm if you have broken the tibia is through imaging techniques, starting with an x-ray of the area. After an initial consultation with your orthopedic surgeon, an x-ray will be ordered if a fracture is suspected. If it is confirmed that you have broken a bone in the lower leg, an MRI or CT scan of the area may be ordered in order to look at the area in greater detail and determine if there was any involvement of soft tissue damage caused by the injury. This will most likely be the case as blood vessel and nerve damage is a common complication with this injury.
With a fracture, immobilization is key to allow for healing of the tissues. Surgery is not always required in the case of a fracture. But, if surgery is needed, the area of the fracture and ensuing type of corrective surgery will be determined by the severity and type of fracture that you present with. Your tibia will be placed in the proper position in the case of a displaced fracture, and then will be placed in a cast in order for healing to take place.
After a period of time and your doctor is confident that enough healing has occurred, your cast will be taken off and a course of physical therapy will be ordered in order to restore range of motion, strength, and function of the lower leg.