Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract The timing of soft-tissue reconstruction for severe open fractures of the lower leg is considered crucial to the later outcome, and yet pertinent publications are few. The purpose of this study was to add some based on evidence arguments for the choice of the most adequate timing in the management of these injuries. Twenty-nine consecutive open fractures of the tibia, including 24 grade 3B and 5 grade 3C fractures, were treated using a protocol of immediate debridement, early definitive skeletal stabilisation and early soft-tissue reconstruction. Fifteen lower legs were reconstructed after a mean delay of 4.4 days (range 1–9 days), while 14 lower legs were reconstructed immediately, i.e. as an emergency procedure on the day of admission. Both groups were comparable for sex, age, type of trauma, associated general injuries, type of fracture, associated arterial lesion, associated tendon rupture, type of soft-tissue reconstruction and duration of follow-up. All patients were reviewed at a mean follow-up of 47 months (range 15–89 months). In the delayed reconstruction group the time to full, unprotected weight-bearing (P = 0.0021), the time to definitive union (P = 0.0049), the number of reoperations (P = 0.0001) and the infection rate (P = 0.0374) were significantly higher. The data suggest that immediate reconstruction is, the general condition of the patient permitting, the timing of choice for soft-tissue coverage.
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