Salvage of infected non-union of the tibia with an Ilizarov ring fixator

Muhammad Shahid Khan, Haroon Rashid, Masood Umer, Irfan Qadir, Kamran Hafeez, Arshad Iqbal
Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery 2015, 23 (1): 52-5

PURPOSE: To review outcomes of 24 patients who underwent Ilizarov ring fixation for infected nonunion of the tibia.

METHODS: Medical records of 21 men and 3 women aged 13 to 74 (mean, 38) years who underwent Ilizarov ring fixation for infected non-union of the tibia were reviewed. The mean bone defect was 3.3 (range, 2-5) cm. The mean time from injury to presentation was 11.9 (range, 1-36) months. The mean number of previous surgeries was 2 (range, 0-14). A local flap was used in 2 patients and a free flap was used in one patient. Nine of the patients underwent Ilizarov ring fixation without soft tissue and bony resection, as inadequate stability was the reason for non-union. Patients were assessed using the Association for the Study and Application of the Method of Ilizarov criteria.

RESULTS: Patients were followed up for a mean of 11 (range, 8-46) months. Functional outcome was excellent in 8 patients, good in 12, fair in 2, and failure in one, whereas bone union outcome was excellent in 6 patients, good in 14, fair in one, and poor in 2. The mean time to union was 8 (range, 3-31) months. The mean external fixation index was 4.2 (range, 1.5-15.7) cm/month. Complications encountered were pin tract infection (n=5), re-fracture (n=2), soft tissue impingement by Ilizarov rings (n=2), recurrence of wound infection (n=1), mal-union (n=1), and mortality (n=1).

CONCLUSION: Ilizarov ring fixation is a viable option for infected non-union of the tibia. Adequate assessment of bone union is crucial before removal of fixator to prevent re-fracture.

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