Single-stage 'Fix and Flap' gives Good Outcomes in Grade 3B/C Open Tibial Fractures: A Prospective Study
Introduction: Grade 3B/C open tibial fractures with grossly contaminated degloving injuries have poor outcomes, with or without vascular injuries. Treatment decision oscillates between limb salvage and amputation. The standard protocol of repeated debridement and delayed wound cover is a challenge in developing countries due to overcrowded emergencies and limited operating room availability. We present results of our modified protocol involving primary stabilisation with external fixation and immediate wound cover as an aggressive modality of treatment.
Material and Methods: Thirty-three patients with severe open tibial shaft fractures were managed using a standardised protocol of emergent debridement, external fixation and immediate wound cover with free distant/local rotational muscle flaps and fasciocutaneous flaps, and with vascular repair in Grade 3C fractures. Intra-articular fractures were excluded. Patients were followed for a minimum of three years, with an assessment of clinical, radiological and functional outcomes.
Results: Wound cover was achieved with 24 distant free muscle flaps, four local rotational muscle flaps and five fasciocutaneous flaps. All fractures united with an average time to union of 40.3 weeks (16-88). Fifteen patients (45.4%) underwent only a single major surgery using primary definitive external fixation. Deep infection was seen in four patients (12.1%). Nineteen patients had excellent to good outcomes, six were fair, and eight were poor.
Conclusion: “Fix and Flap” in the same sitting, using immediate wound cover and external fixation, has given good results in our hands despite the delayed presentation, the neurovascular deficit and the degloving injury. This may be a better management strategy in overcrowded tertiary care centres of developing countries, with a single surgical procedure in almost half the cases.
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