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INTRODUCTION: Segmental tibial fractures are complex injuries with a prolonged recovery time. Current definitive treatment options include intramedullary fixation or a circular external fixator. However, there is uncertainty as to which surgical option is preferable and there are no sufficiently rigorous multi-centre trials that have answered this question. The objective of this study was to determine whether patient and surgeon opinion was permissive for a randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing intramedullary nailing to the application of a circular external fixator. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A convenience questionnaire survey of attending surgeons was conducted during the United Kingdom's Orthopaedic Trauma Society annual meeting 2017 to determine the treatment modalities used for a segmental tibial fracture (n=63). Patient opinion was obtained from clinical patients who had been treated for a segmental tibial fracture as part of a patient and public involvement focus group with questions covering the domains of surgical preference, treatment expectations, outcome, the consent process and follow-up regime (n=5). RESULTS: Based on the surgeon survey, 39% routinely use circular frame fixation following segmental tibial fracture compared to 61% who use nail fixation. Nail fixation was reported as the treatment of choice for a closed injury in a healthy patient in 81% of surgeons, and by 86% for a patient with a closed fracture who was obese. Twenty-one percent reported that they would use a nail for an open segmental tibia fracture in diabetics who smoked, whilst 57% would opt for a nail for a closed injury with compartment syndrome, and only 27% would use a nail for an open segmental injury in a young fit sports person. The patient and public preference exercise identified that sleep, early functional outcomes and psychosocial measures of outcomes are important. CONCLUSION: We concluded that a RCT comparing definitive fixation with an intramedullary nail and a circular external fixator is justified as there remains uncertainty on the optimal surgical management for segmental tibial fractures. Furthermore, psychosocial factors and early post-operative outcomes should be reported as core outcome measures as part of such a trial.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2306 - 2310


Fracture, Preference, Segmental, Surgeon, Tibia, Trial, Adult, Attitude of Health Personnel, Choice Behavior, Clinical Decision-Making, External Fixators, Female, Fracture Fixation, Fracture Fixation, Intramedullary, Fracture Healing, Health Care Surveys, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Patient Education as Topic, Patient Preference, Surgeons, Tibial Fractures, Treatment Outcome