One-Stage Reconstruction of Composite Bone and Soft-Tissue Defects in Traumatic Lower Extremities

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Management of bone loss that occurs after severe trauma of open lower extremity fractures continues to challenge reconstructive surgeons. Sixty-one patients who had 62 traumatic open lower extremity fractures and combined bone and composite soft-tissue defects were treated with the following protocol: extensive débridement of necrotic tissues, eradication of infection, and vascularization of osteocutaneous tissue for one-stage bone and soft-tissue coverage reconstruction. The mechanism of injury included 49 motorcycle accidents (80.3 percent), five falls (8.2 percent), three crush injuries (4.9 percent), two pedestrian-automobile accidents (3.3 percent), and two motor vehicle accidents (3.3 percent). The bone defects were located in the tibia in 49 patients (79 percent; one patient had bilateral open tibial fractures), in the femur in seven patients (11.3 percent), in the calcaneus bone in four patients (6.5 percent), and in the metatarsal bones in two patients (3.2 percent). The size of soft-tissue defects ranged from 5 × 9 cm to 30 × 17 cm. The average length of the preoperative bony defect was 11.7 cm. The average duration from injury to one-stage reconstruction was 27.1 days, and the average number of previous extensive débridement procedures was 3.4. Fifty patients had vascularized fibula osteoseptocutaneous flaps, six had vascularized iliac osteocutaneous flaps, and five patients had seven combined vascularized rib transfers with serratus anterior muscle and/or latissimus dorsi muscle transfers. One patient received a second combined rib flap because the first combined rib flap failed. The rate of complete flap survival was 88.9 percent (56 of 63 flaps). Two combined vascularized rib transfers with serratus anterior muscle and latissimus dorsi muscle flaps were lost totally (3.2 percent) because of arterial thrombosis and deep infection, respectively. Partial skin flap losses were encountered in the five fibula osteoseptocutaneous flaps (7.9 percent). Postoperative infection for this one-stage reconstruction was 7.9 percent. Excluding the failed flap and the infected/amputated limb, the primary bony union rate after successful free vascularized bone grafting was 88.5 percent (54 of 61 transfers). The average primary union time was 6.9 months. The overall union rate was 96.7 percent (59 of 61 transfers). The average time to overall union was 8.5 months after surgery. Seven transferred vascularized bones had stress fractures, for a rate of 11.5 percent. Donor-site problems were noted in six fibular flaps, in two iliac flaps, and in one rib flap. The fibular donor-site problems were foot drop in one patient, superficial peroneal nerve palsy in one patient, contracture of the flexor hallucis longus muscle in two patients, and skin necrosis after split-thickness skin grafting in two patients. The iliac flap donor-site problems were temporary flank pain in one patient and lateral thigh numbness in the other. One rib flap transfer patient had pleural fibrosis. Transfer of the appropriate combination of vascularized bone and soft-tissue flap with a one-stage procedure provides complex lower extremity defects with successful functional results that are almost equal to the previously reported microsurgical staged procedures and conventional techniques.

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