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  3. Diagnosis
  4. Indications
  5. Treatment

Authors of section


Matthias Hansen, Rodrigo Pesántez

Executive Editors

Joseph Schatzker, Ernst Raaymakers, Rick Buckley

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Nonoperative treatment

1. No immobilization, non-weight bearing and early motion


Undisplaced fracture which is perfectly stable.

Nonoperative treatment is indicated if the fracture is undisplaced or minimally displaced and the joint is absolutely stable and there are no other indications for surgery (eg., neurovascular injury, compartment syndrome).

A careful knee exam with valgus/varus stress test done in both full extension and 30° of flection must be peformed. If there is any question about medial/lateral instability, or anterior/posterior stability, or rotatory instability, then further investigations such as MRI should be obtained.

Never immobilize in plaster. If splinting is necessary, then immobilize in a hinged fracture brace.

Start early active range of motion as soon as possible.

2. Posterior plaster splint


Only as a means of temporary splinting.

3. Cylinder cast (stove pipe)


For stable extraarticular fractures as a means of definitive treatment.

Splint padding

With the limb in extension and supported, apply splint padding around the leg. Begin high in the thigh and extend it four finger breadths above the malleoli. Make the padding five layers thick in the upper thigh and particularly above the malleoli to prevent pressure problems.

Cylinder cast (stove pipe)

Plaster application

15 cm wide plaster is applied in a circular way around the lower limb starting from high on the thigh until the supramalleolar region. Use 5 layers of plaster.

Cylinder cast (stove pipe)

While the plaster is drying a supracondylar mold is placed and held until the cast material is hard.

Cylinder cast (stove pipe)

4. Knee immobilizer


All fractures as a means of temporary splinting.

Non-hinged fracture brace (Zimmer knee brace)

5. Hinged fracture brace


Angular splinting of the extremity allowing early knee motion.

As a means of definitive splinting allowing early motion.

Fracture brace

Never immobilize in plaster. If protection is required to prevent displacement, use a hinged fracture brace to permit early motion.

Axial splinting allowing knee motion.

Hinged fracture brace
Hinged fracture brace

6. Aftercare

For aftercare and rehabilitation following nonoperative treatment please refer to your local protocol.

Pay attention to the neurovascular status, avoid compartment syndrome 2) isometric muscular exercise as early as possible 3) Passive motion of the joint can begin from 4-6 weeks with non-weight bearing.