Schatzker system is widely accepted and used to classify tibial plateau fractures. It is based on a 2D representation of the fracture. As a general rule, it can be divided into low-energy and lateral tibial plateau variants (types I-III) and high energy variants (type IV-VI). However, it does not include fractures in the coronal plane or others not seen on plain AP radiographs. This classification helps separate the fractures into groups with similar mechanisms and patterns which will have similar treatment options.
Mnemonic: Imagine a break-up scenario in a failed romance and the various emotional stages you go through.
I – You have just split up and feel alone and on the outside.
II – Split and feeling depressed and still alone and on the outside.
III – Pure depression but still on the outside.
IV – You are on the otherside of the breakup and it doesn’t matter to you anymore about whether you are split or depressed.
V – You manage to see both sides of the split up.
VI – You have a relapse when you see him/her again and become a complete emotional mess.
Source: Thurston MD, Guyver PM, Jain NP, Toms AD. An aide-mémoire for tibial plateau fractures. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2014 Jul;96(5):386. doi: 10.1308/rcsann.2014.96.5.386. PMID: 24992425; PMCID: PMC4473938.
Now correlate this breakup story with the Schatzker classification.
Schatzker originally defined depression as measuring greater than 4mm and as a surgical limit. The separation is defined as the diastasis between two fragments and the surgical limit is 2mm.
Generally, simple or incomplete fractures (Schatzker type 1) of the plateau are compressed with 6.5mm partially threaded cancellous screws. Complex type fractures will require a plate for enhanced stability.
I have devised a simpler mnemonic, which may be useful and help you remember the classiciation.
Mnemonic: SLeD MED
Type I – Split and Lateral
Type II – Split, Lateral and Depressed
Type III – Lateral and Depressed
Type IV – Medial
Type V – Either (Bicondylar)
Type VI – Diaphysis Dissociated from metaphysis