The purpose of this study was to collect all available randomized controlled trials (RCT) on the treatment of open tibial fractures with an external fixator (EF) and intramedullary nailing (IMN) for meta-analysis to provide reliable evidence-based data for clinical decision-making. The systematic review was undertaken in accordance with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) and AMSTAR (Assessing the Methodological Quality of Systematic Review). An electronic search of PubMed, Cochrane Library, and Web of Science was performed until 1 March 2023 to identify RCTs which compared either IMN or EF to fix the open tibial fracture. Outcome measures were: postoperative superficial and deep infection, time to union, delayed union, malunion, nonunion and hardware failure. In addition, pain and health-related quality of life were evaluated after 3 and 12 months of follow-up. Sixteen publications comprising 1011 patients were included in the meta-analysis. The pooled results suggested that the IMN technique had a lower postoperative superficial infection and malunion rate (RR = 3.56, 95%CI = 2.56-4.95 and RR = 1.96, 95%CI = 1.12-3.44, respectively), but higher hardware failure occurrence in contrast to EF (RR = 0.30; 95%CI = 0.13-0.69). No significant differences were found in the union time, delayed union or nonunion rate, and postoperative deep infection rate between the treatments. Lower levels of pain were found in the EF group (RR = 0.05, 95%CI = 0.02-0.17, < 0.001). A difference in quality of life favoring IMN after 3 months was found (RR = -0.04, 95%CI = -0.05-0.03, < 0.001), however, no statistical difference was found after 12 months (RR = 0.03, 95%CI = -0.05-0.11, = 0.44). Meta-analysis presented reduced incidence rates of superficial infection, malunion, and health-related quality of life 3 months after treatment in IMN. However, EF led to a significant reduction in pain and incidence rate of hardware failure. Postoperative deep infection, delayed union, nonunion and health-related quality of life 12 months following therapy were similar between groups. More high-quality RCTs should be conducted to provide reliable evidence-based data for clinical decision-making.