The ideal timing of soft-tissue coverage for open lower extremity fractures remains controversial. Using U.S. national data, this study aims to characterize secular trends and regional variation in the timing of soft-tissue coverage.Methods:
Using discharge data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (2002 to 2011), the authors identified 888 encounters admitted from the emergency department with isolated open lower extremity fractures treated with pedicled or free tissue transfer. Soft-tissue coverage timing was assessed by patient factors, hospital characteristics, and fracture patterns. Statistical significance and secular trends were analyzed with generalized linear models.Results:
The mean day of soft-tissue reconstruction was at 6.64 days. Over the 10-year period, the day of reconstruction increased significantly (from 6.12 days in 2002 to 12.50 days in 2011; coefficient, 0.09; 95 percent CI, 0.05 to 0.12; p < 0.001). Demographic and facility factors did not significantly impact timing. Elixhauser comorbidity scores greater than 2 were associated with later coverage (10.13 days versus 6.29 days; p = 0.001) along with multisite fractures (8.35 days; p = 0.022) and external fixators (8.78 days; p < 0.001). The U.S. Census division showed significant variation in timing ranging from 0.94 days (East North Central) to 9.84 days (Pacific).Conclusions:
A progressive delay in the timing of soft-tissue reconstruction was noted and may be attributed to negative-pressure wound therapy. The timing of soft-tissue coverage varied by region after adjusting for patient and hospital factors. Additional studies are needed to understand the impact of delayed soft-tissue coverage on patient outcomes and health services utilization.