Bifocal compression-distraction in the acute treatment of grade III open tibia fractures with bone and soft-tissue loss: a report of 24 cases

Cengiz Sen, Mehmet Kocaoglu, Levent Eralp, Mahir Gulsen, Murat Cinar
Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma 2004, 18 (3): 150-7

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the results of bifocal compression-distraction method for the acute treatment of open tibia fractures with bone and soft-tissue loss.

DESIGN: Patients were selected for bifocal compression-distraction (shortening and lengthening) who had open tibia fractures with bone and soft-tissue loss and a Mangled Extremity Severe Score of 6 and below indicating good leg viability.

PATIENTS: Bifocal compression-distraction osteogenesis using the Ilizarov type circular external fixator was applied to 24 patients with 14 grade IIIA and 10 grade IIIB open tibia fractures with bone and soft-tissue loss. Mean age of the patients was 30.6 years (range 18-53). The mean bone defect was 5 cm (range 3-8.5). The mean soft tissue defect was 2.5 x 3.5 (1 x 2-10 x 5) cm.

INTERVENTIONS: Acute shortening at the fracture site was done for patients with bone defects up to 3 cm to achieve apposition of bone ends. Gradual shortening at a rate of 2 mm/d was done for patients who had bone defects more than 3 cm. Leg length discrepancy was overcome by lengthening at the same time through a corticotomy at a proximal or distal level depending on fracture localization, until there was equalization of leg lengths.

RESULTS: Mean follow-up period was 30 months (range 18-60). Mean bone healing time was 7.5 months (range 4-11). The mean time in external fixation was 7.1 months (range 3-10), and the average external fixator index was 1.4 months/cm. Results were evaluated using the Paley bone and functional assessment scores. The bone assessment results were excellent in 21 and good in 3 patients. Functional assessment scores were excellent in 19, good in 4, and fair in 1 patient. Pin site infections were present in 10.7% of the pin sites. There were 52 complications in 24 patients, for a complication rate per patient of 2.08. Of the complications, 48.1% were problems (minor complications), 38.5% obstacles (major complications requiring a surgical solution), and 13.4% sequelae (true complications). Minor complications included soft tissue inflammation and infection, translation/angulation, and delayed maturation during distraction and transient knee contracture and loss of motion. All grade 1 and 2 soft tissue inflammations and infections healed with nonoperative therapy. Major complications included pin tract infection and reinfection, equinus deformity, frame failure, and premature consolidation, all of which required additional surgery to correct the problem. Sequelae included leg length discrepancy, loss of knee/ankle range of motion, knee flexion contracture, malalignment, and chronic osteomyelitis.

CONCLUSION: Bifocal compression-distraction osteogenesis is a safe, reliable, and largely successful method for the acute treatment of open tibia fractures with bone and soft-tissue loss. Further nonoperative or operative treatment can correct most complications.

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