Limb salvage of lower-extremity wounds using free gracilis muscle reconstruction

R J Redett, B C Robertson, B Chang, J Girotto, T Vaughan
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 2000, 106 (7): 1507-13
An extensive series reviewing the benefits and drawbacks of use of the gracilis muscle in lower-extremity trauma has not previously been collected. In this series of 50 patients, the use of microvascular free transfer of the gracilis muscle for lower-extremity salvage in acute traumatic wounds and posttraumatic chronic wounds is reviewed. In addition, the wound size, injury patterns, problems, and results unique to the use of the gracilis as a donor muscle for lower-extremity reconstruction are identified. In a 7-year period from 1991 to 1998, 50 patients underwent lower-extremity reconstruction using microvascular free gracilis transfer at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. There were 22 patients who underwent reconstruction for coverage of acute lower-extremity traumatic soft-tissue defects associated with open fractures. The majority of patients were victims of high-energy injuries with 91 percent involving motor vehicle or motorcycle accidents, gunshot wounds, or pedestrians struck by vehicles. Ninety-one percent of the injuries were Gustilo type IIIb tibial fractures and 9 percent were Gustilo type IIIc. The mean soft-tissue defect size was 92.2 cm2. Successful limb salvage was achieved in 95 percent of patients. Twenty-eight patients with previous Gustilo type IIIb tibia-fibula fractures presented with posttraumatic chronic wounds characterized by osteomyelitis or deep soft-tissue infection. Successful free-tissue transfer was accomplished in 26 of 28 patients (93 percent). All but one of the patients in this group who underwent successful limb salvage (26 of 27, or 96 percent) are now free of infection. Use of the gracilis muscle as a free-tissue transfer has been shown to be a reliable and predictable tool in lower-extremity reconstruction, with a flap success and limb salvage rate comparable to those in other large studies.

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