The reconstruction of bone critical size defects of the tibia is one of the most complex therapeutic challenges in the orthopedic field. This study aims to describe and evaluate our three-staged surgical protocol of reconstruction of infected defects of the tibia emphasizing in limb salvage rate, resolution of infection, functional outcome and patient satisfaction.
A retrospective review was performed in all cases of complex infected tibia fracture with combined soft and bone tissue loss treated in a specialized limb reconstruction center between 2010 and 2018. In all cases, a three-stage protocol was performed: 1) Infected-limb damage control with radical debridement, 2) Soft tissue coverage with vascularized or local flap 3) Bone reconstruction procedure. The minimum follow-up required was 12 months after external fixator removal.
Twenty-eight patients with a mean age of 42 years were included. The mean soft tissue defect was 91.7 cm2 and the mean bone defect was 5.8 cm. 67.85% of the cases were classified as a type IV B-local osteomyelitis. The median global treatment time was 456 days. The External Fixator Time (EFT) was 419, 284, 235 for bone transport, shortening-lengthening and acute shortening groups respectively. The median Bone Healing Index (BHI) was 1.82 months/cm in bone transport group and 2.15 months/cm in shortening-lengthening group. The limb salvage rate was 92.85%. Infection resolution rate was 96,42%. We achieved bone union in 92,85% of the cases. Regarding ASAMI bone score, 92.8% of the cases were “good-or-excellent”. Two patients underwent a delayed amputation. Eight cases of non-progressive Docking Site (DS) healing were observed. Nineteen non-expected reinterventions were performed. Functional data: the mean VAS score was 1.0. The mean LEFS score was 55.88 (55.88/80). Regarding ASAMI functional score, 78,6% of the cases were “good-or-excellent”. More than 80% of the patients could return to work. 100% of the patients were “very satisfied” or “moderately satisfied” (75% and 25% respectively).
Our results demonstrate that our three-stage surgical approach in infected tibial bone defects with soft tissue damage can result in high infection resolution, good functional outcome, good patient satisfaction and an acceptable limb salvage rate despite the large time of treatment and unexpected reinterventions.