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The results of a prospective trial of the use of the Hughes unilateral external fixator in the management of 48 tibial diaphyseal fractures are presented. Good results were obtained in grade II and III fractures but not in closed and grade I fractures. The results and complication rates were comparable with those of other more complex external fixators. Good results were found to be dependent on the adequacy of the initial reduction and the duration of external fixation, but independent of alterations in pin angle, length and location as well as fixator location.