BACKGROUND: Patients with a tibial shaft fracture experiencing their first postoperative complication following treatment with intramedullary nails may be at greater risk of subsequent complications than the whole population. We aimed to determine whether the initial method of nail insertion influences outcome in patients with a tibial shaft fracture requiring multiple reoperations. METHODS: Using the Study to Prospectively Evaluate Reamed Intramedullary Nails in Tibial Shaft Fractures trial data, we categorized patients as those not requiring reoperation, those requiring a single reoperation and those requiring multiple reoperations, and we compared them by nail insertion technique (reamed v. unreamed) and fracture type (open v. closed). We then determined the number of patients whose first reoperation was in response to infection, and we compared other clinical outcomes between the reamed and unreamed groups. RESULTS: Among 1226 patients included in this analysis, 175 (14.27%) experienced a single reoperation and 44 patients (3.59%) underwent multiple reoperations. Nail insertion techniques (reamed v. unreamed) did not play a role in the need to perform multiple reoperations. Seventy-five percent of patients requiring multiple reoperations had open tibial shaft fractures. An equal number of these were reamed and unreamed insertions. The majority of patients had their course complicated by infection and almost 50% of patients whose first reoperation was for infection required more than 2 reoperations for management. The rest required multiple procedures for nonunion or bone loss. CONCLUSION: Our findings corroborate those of other studies, in which open fracture type rather than nail insertion technique was found to be the cause of morbidity following intramedullary nailing of tibial fractures. CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: www. CLINICALTRIALS: gov, no. NCT00038129.