Tibia Fracture - Broken Leg 

Introduction
The tibia, commonly called the shinbone, is located in your lower leg.  A tibia fracture is a common injury.  A fracture is a broken bone.  Vehicle crashes, falls, and sports injuries are frequent causes of tibia fractures.  Depending on the location and type of fracture, treatment involves casting or surgery.

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Anatomy
The tibia is the larger of the two long bones in your leg.  The smaller bone next to the tibia is the fibula.  The top of the tibia is part of the knee joint.  The long length of bone is called the shaft.  The lower part of the tibia helps form the ankle joint. 

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Causes
Tibia fractures can result from vehicle crashes and or falls.  Tibia fractures can occur in people that have been hit by a car.  Jumping or rotating during sports, such as gymnastics, basketball, and football, can cause tibia fractures.  Stress fractures result from prolonged impact from jogging, running, or other repetitive activities. 

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Symptoms
Tibia fractures can cause pain and swelling.  You may not be able to put weight on your leg or walk.  In some cases, the nearby fibula bone is fractured as well.

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Diagnosis
Your doctor can diagnose a tibia fracture by examining your leg and taking X-rays.  Tests that show more detail, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, may be used as well.  Your doctor will evaluate the nerves and blood vessels in your leg.

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Surgery
There are various types of surgery to treat fractures with bones that have moved out of position or are otherwise unstable.  Intramedullary fixation involves inserting a rod (intramedullary nail) into the center of the bone.  The rod is secured with surgical screws.  The rod provides support while the fracture heals.
 
Other tibia surgeries include plating and external fixation.  Plating involves securing a plate and screws into the bone to keep it in proper position while it heals.  Plating is useful for tibia fractures around the ankle or knee.  External fixation uses a frame that is aligned on the outside of the leg and secured with surgical pins to keep the bones from moving while they heal.  External fixation is useful if there are severe skin wounds associated with a fracture. 

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Treatment
Casting can be used to treat tibia shaft fractures if the bones are in good alignment.  Casting is also used for people that are not good candidates for surgery.  A long leg cast that covers the knee and ankle is used to provide support and stability while the bones heal.  Physical therapy may follow non-surgical or surgical treatment to help gain strength, motion, and function.

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Recovery
The tibia can take a long time to heal, ranging from about four months to over nine months for severe fractures.  Physical therapy may follow casting or surgery.  You will need to use crutches or a walker for a period while you heal.  Your doctor will check your progress with X-rays and gradually increase the amount of weight that you can put on your leg.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Author Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on March 13th, 2015. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.