Limited value of the column concept in the operative management of posterior column tibial plateau fractures

  • Juriaan van den Berg
  • Stefaan Nijs
  • Harm HoekstraEmail author
Original Article



The three-column concept has been proposed as tool in surgical decision-making for treating tibial plateau fractures. Recent studies have underscored the negative effect of posterior column tibial plateau fractures on clinical outcome. The purpose of this study was to assess the value of the three-column concept and posterior plating in posterior column fractures. We hypothesized that treating patients according to the three-column concept improves functional outcome.


111 consecutive tibial plateau fractures, treated between January 2009 and December 2016, with at least a posterior column fracture were included. Relevant demographic and treatment variables were studied. Applied treatment was retrospectively evaluated according to the three-column concept. Patient reported outcome was assessed using the Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS).


Median follow-up was 43.1 months (IQR 29.0–63.3) with a response rate of 80.2%. Outcome scores were markedly lower compared to the general population. 22.5% patients were treated according to the three-column concept and 27% was treated with posterior plating. Predominantly combined fractures of posterior and lateral columns were treated without fixation of the posterior column. Neither treatment according to the three-column concept and/or with posterior plating was found to significantly influence outcome.


The outcome of posterior column fractures was equal, regardless of whether these fractures were treated or not. This indicates that the three-column concept seems insufficient and gives rise to further debate on surgical strategies of posterior column fractures. The implementation of trauma mechanism-based fracture morphology in the three-column concept might be important to consummate the three-column concept as guiding tool.

Level of evidence



Three-column concept Tibial plateau fractures Posterior column Functional outcome 



Posterior column fracture


Three-column concept


Open reduction and internal fixation


Knee injury and osteoarthritis outcome score



There is no funding source.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This study was completed in compliance with national legislation and the guidelines of the ethics committee of the University Hospitals Leuven.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Trauma SurgeryUniversity Hospitals LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Development and RegenerationKU Leuven-University of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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